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More Power at the Ballpark

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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St. Louis and Arlington host the last two groups of people in the country not worrying about power shortages around the baseball stadium. Everybody else is thinking about next year.

Majid Rashidi's helical wind turbineAs usual, that includes the Cleveland Indians — but this time they’re thinking of power in the stadium, not just at the plate. By the time next season starts, they’ll have mounted an 18-foot-wide wind turbine atop Progressive Field. The turbine is a sort of nutty helical design, which doesn’t work towards a still-frustrating vertical-axis technology breakthrough. Instead, it’s a wind amplification turbine, which puts a bunch of little tiny windmill-style blades in grooves along the sides of the structure. The grooves funnel the wind, which according to designer Majid Rashidi speeds up as it passes objects — think of the way large buildings turn cities into wind tunnels, or the way the air causes a curveball to drop. Um, for pitchers for other teams, that is. Rashidi expects his turbine to generate three or four times as much power as a turbine not right next to a cylinder.

The turbine basically uses Bernoulli’s principal, Rashidi has said. The wind speeds up around a surface much the way it does over the wing of an airplane. There it produces lift, here it will hopefully produce about 40,000 kilowatts a year — enough to power a few houses. The design was originally tested in 2009, when Rashidi’s employer, Cleveland State University, mounted a trial turbine atop one of its buildings.

That turbine had only a single barrel around which the wind flowed. Things have gone well enough there that the nextversion, highly updated with those grooves, should sit atop Progressive Field sometime in March, 2012. The turbine solves two problems associated with wind: First, it generates power at low wind speeds, and second it works in urban environments where larger, propeller-type turbines won’t fit.

Just the same, Rashidi doesn’t seem to have any idea at all what to do about the Indians’ pitching.


Scott Huler About the Author: A writer who commonly explores science, culture, and the relationship between the two. Follow on Twitter @huler.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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