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Turbine technology takes off at CSU

November 10, 2011

By Dan Stanton

Familiar winds are blowing about Cleveland and Cleveland State is playing a role.

The helix turbine designed by Dr. Majid Rashidi, chair of CSU’s Engineering Technology Department, is currently being fabricated by local firm Astro Manufacturing and Design. Plans call for the modular, plastic pieces to be semi-transparent, and the finished helix can be illuminated from within. When it is complete, the turbine will be installed at Progressive Field.

With his helical turbine, Rashidi has put a new twist on wind technology. Rashidi based his helix design on his work with the cylinder turbine that sits atop the Plant Services building.

As the wind approaches the cylinder, it blows to either side. As the wind blows around the cylinder, Wind Turbineit increases in speed. Rashidi put small turbines on either side of the cylinder to catch the amplified wind.

When compared to a reference turbine located away from the cylinder, the cylinder-mounted turbines spun faster and produced more electricity.

Rashidi’s helix turbine uses the same idea as the cylinder, but the turbines are partially shrouded. Rashidi thinks the shrouding will have an even greater amplifying effect than the cylinder.

Rashidi said the turbines he works with can be designed and built here in Cleveland using existing businesses and resources. In addition to Astro, local structural engineering firm I.A. Lewin and Associates, Inc. has worked on parts of Rashidi’s cylinder turbine.

Unlike larger wind turbines, like the one installed by Lincoln Electric on Cleveland’s East Side, Rashidi works with smaller turbines that work as part of a distributed wind harnessing system. Lincoln Electric’s turbine operates in the megawatt range (one million watts). Rashidi’s smaller turbines can be installed on exsiting structures, like water towers and silos, and produce electricity in the kilowatt (1,000 watt) range.

In the late 19th century, just 13 blocks east of where CSU’s Fenn College of Engineering now stands, Charles Brush built an electricity generating windmill in his mansion’s backyard. Brush abandoned his windmill when electricity became available from municipal sources.