The Windbelt™ technology was originally conceived in 2004, during a trip to Petite Anse, Haiti. This fishing village near the coast was not connected to an electrical grid, and the only lighting available was diesel-powered or kerosene-based.
Shawn Frayne, a member of a team from MIT and Petite Anse working in the area, recognised that instead of kerosene lamps, white LEDs powered by a very inexpensive wind generator might be able to better light homes and schools in the area. However, when Shawn tried to design this affordable, turbine-based wind generator, he hit a brick wall: turbine technology is too inefficient at these scales to be a viable option.
It was these difficult constraints of cost and local manufacture that led to a new invention, the world’s first non-turbine wind generator, the Windbelt™ generator.
Windbelt™ is the first non-turbine wind system harvesting electricity using an oscillating ribbon, instead of a rotator. This works on low wind-speeds. The 3-10 Watt system powers lights for 1-2 hours. It is three times cheaper than solar power with a cost of US$2/watt. At its heart, The Windbelt™ uses a tensioned membrane undergoing a flutter oscillation to pull energy from the wind.
Today, the suite of technologies and intellectual property behind the Windbelt™ is wholly owned by Humdinger Wind Energy, LLC (“Humdinger”). Humdinger, a Hawaii limited liability company with additional operations in Hong Kong and Guatemala, is a research and development house focused on pushing forward the development of the Windbelt™ technology.
Shawn Frayne, President of Humdinger Wind Energy, says self-belief in positive change for the world is what has driven him to develop this energy system.
“Since the age of 12, I’ve had this dream and absolute passion for this idea. This is the most ubiquitous energy change in the world. It is proof that developing-country solutions can have a global impact.”
Technology is a means to an end. Innovation will take place on a bigger scale in the future, globally, through the internet, where expertise will be tapped, gaining access to information.
Shawn thinks there will be a new model of small groups collecting to solve problems of the 21st century.
Windbelt™ is one of these breakthroughs for the 21st century. Socio-political governments are restricted, and research and development will be part of the process of solution.
In the USA, where Shawn grew up, there is an incentive for effort and risk in the patent system.
Jordan McRae is the Lead Aeronautical Engineer for Humdinger. He is using his experience as an Aeronautical Engineer to develop a high fidelity model of the aeroelastic effects on the Windbelt™ to predict optimal power performance. Jordan’s experience in developing modular robotic systems is also being leveraged to optimise the performance of the micro Windbelt™ in sensor networks.
Through its growing intellectual property base in the US and abroad, Humdinger manages rights to the Windbelt™ and several additional enabling innovations in power conditioning, linear alternator design, and aerodynamic numerical modelling.