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​How can we extract the most energy from the wind?

A new design for wind turbines, coupled with new ways of arranging turbines so that they work together, could provide the answer.

new wind turbines

Using new turbines and arranging them in different ways, researchers hope to generate wind power more efficiently. | Image by Dabiri Lab, Stanford

Today’s wind farms use large turbines spread far apart.

Stanford professor John Dabiri thinks birds can teach us something about using smaller wind turbines to work together to capture energy from the wind. “Groups of animals have this whole-is-greater-than-the-parts effect where animals in front create air or water currents that make it easier for those behind to fly or swim,” he says.

His lab is testing turbines that look like vertical egg beaters. This design insures that they’re always facing the wind. These turbines can be moved and rearranged. Over time Dabiri hopes to discover how to place turbines so that wind farms can replicate the whole-is-greater-than-the-parts wisdom of nature.

Read more about Dabiri's wind power experiments.