Lucien Gambarota, the main inventor of the technology, says this is its
advantage over conventional small wind turbines, which only work about 40
percent of the time because of low wind speed.
"We never stop this machine and they never stop because there is always one
meter per second wind — 365 days, 24 hours a day, they keep working," said
Gambarota. "They deliver different levels of energy because the wind changes
but these turbines they keep moving, they keep spinning."
Gambarota says the small turbines are ideal for crowded cities such as Hong
Kong because they can be installed on rooftops and balconies.
Their design is simple: plastic gearwheels, each about 25 centimeters in
diameter, are linked to one another and turn, moved by the wind. Groups of
gearwheels can be arranged in an array of shapes and sizes, ranging from
about two up to thousands of square meters, depending on how much energy is
needed and how much space is available. The energy generated by the turbines
is stored in a battery, which then powers electrical appliances.
The wind turbine is easy to install and comparatively cheap. At the moment,
a set of 20 gearwheels costs about $25. Gambarota says the price will go
down once the turbines are being mass-produced, making them a good option
for consumers who want to cut down on their energy costs.
"Let’s say if you have good conditions, five, six meters [of wind] per
second, if you are a family with one kid you need most probably three, four
square meters of that then you can most probably cover at least 60, 70
percent of your [energy] needs."
The technology can also help power bigger buildings. Administrators at Hong
Kong’s Sea School, a secondary school offering basic seaman training, will
install the new micro wind-turbines on its roof in April.
Gambarota says his biggest dream is to see his invention being used in
developing countries. He says energy generated by micro wind turbines can be
used to pump water, for example, saving women and girls from having to walk
for miles to rivers and lakes to fetch it.