219: Shrouded Rooftop Wind Turbines


Matt and Sean talk about old designs, new designs, and the coincidences linking them. Wind turbine design goes back centuries, but are they actually linked to newer designs?

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, Are Shrouded Rooftop Wind Turbines the Future of Energy? https://youtu.be/SGQTwcq0UIY?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi4dFnLD9622FK77atWtQVv7

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On today’s episode of Still to be Determined, we’re talking about Matt’s wandering path toward a spinning blade. Hi everybody. As usual, I’m Sean Ferrell. I’m a writer. I read some sci fi, I read some stuff for kids. I’m just generally curious about technology. And with me as always is my brother, Matt. He’s that Matt of Undecided with Matt Ferrell, which takes a look at emerging tech and its impact on our lives.

And Matt, how are you? And how were the spinning blades?

Sean, I don’t know if you noticed, let me move my mic out of the way here. I hadn’t noticed,

I really like it. Just next time you go to a conference. Yeah. And next time you go to a conference, you’re just gonna be shooting those out of a t shirt cannon, right?

That’s right.

And then it’ll get very confusing because everybody will be wearing that’s Matt T shirt. That’s right. It’ll be very, very strange.

I love it though. That’s terrific. So how has your weekend been so far before we get into the podcast?

It’s been, been a lot of yard work, Sean. It’s spring and things are growing.

So it’s been a lot of yard work this week. And it’s your first

go around in your new, in your new home, so. You’re learning what it’s like to take care of this yard, not just a yard. You had one previously. Your previous yard, though, if I remember correctly, was about the size of, well, a little bit smaller than the room I’m in right now.

It was very tiny.

And this yard is much bigger. I’m trying to, trying to grow a brand new lawn. Growing lawns sucks. But it’s like growing a brand new lawn. It’s very patchy. And so it’s like trying to get it to kind of root in before the weeds take over. Um, kind of a challenge.

Well, I’m sure you’ll be able to manage it.

After all, you’ve got a lot of free time.

Before we get into our conversation about Matt’s most recent episode, which was a look at a new, or is it old, Model of wind turbine. We’ll get into that in more detail. But before we do that, we’re going to talk a little bit about our previous episode and some of your responses to the long form interview that we shared.

Matt’s talk with Fanni Melles, who is the researcher who’s looking into smart city. And, uh, there was a lot of interesting conversations in the comments. About that one, like this one from Fast Photo, who said, on my understanding, after this beautiful interview, a city can only be as smart as the citizens are willing to be.

With that in mind, the most primary step to building a smart city should be investing in the citizens, diversity, education, and alluding to them to participate in the project around the city since a very young age. I think that that is a good background note to make that, you know, We can’t expect the city to do this by itself, and we need to support the citizenry in active participation in city development.

And here in New York, we actually have a neighborhood, they’re kind of like neighborhood committees that reach out to the public for feedback around various programs that are funded by the city, where the city effectively has a pool of money that it will share with local groups for community projects.

And they can use it for anything from maybe developing a local park, or maybe putting in new playground equipment, or maybe doing something like, has been going on in my neighborhood, a redevelopment program that was working closely with the city councilmen in trying to change policy around how buildings could be used, And the building of a new school.

So there are various forms of this already in action, but I think it’s an important step in the topic that you and Fanni were talking about that is sometimes forgotten about. That we can’t expect these things to happen just because the smart people show up suddenly and do it. We need to have the smart people actually living in these communities asking for it and helping guide it.

Yeah, the city is the people. So we all have to kind of take action and be part of the solution, not just expect somebody else to take care of it for us.

Then there was this comment from Pathfinder GM. Pathfinder GM, I like the username. That implies a little bit of D& D in your background. Pathfinder says, I like what she is bringing up.

I especially like how she went out of her way to explain that smart doesn’t necessarily mean high tech. Many cities that made streets pedestrian only during COVID are keeping parts, if not most of those streets pedestrian, only because of the vast improvement to traffic. Simply prioritizing good quality, high frequency public transportation could be extremely beneficial.

Politicians need to realize a drop in GDP can be good, especially if it is a mass decrease on the cost to live and exist in your society. Sustainable thinking isn’t just for the environment, it’s also for the stability for those that live there, financially, socially, physically, even mentally. Yeah, it may not look good on spreadsheets when you expect infinite growth in a finite world, but looking at making reality better instead of forcing a fantasy to work for a small select few is a far better world to live in.

I really liked that. Yes. Approach. It is looking top to bottom at what does it mean to have a good lifestyle and it is not runaway GDP. Runaway GDP is a measurement for an entire society that may not have benefit to the individual.

Yeah, no, it’s, it’s, you can’t just look at this stuff with a, um, a lens on cost.

Cost is not the ultimate here. There’s also a quality of life that we have to consider. And so it’s like, it’s like squishy. So you put it, you have to put a number on quality of life. Like what is that? Yeah. So it gets a little uncomfortable there, but at the same time, you can’t discount that. There is a value there that we have to always keep in mind.

Yeah. It’s like measuring in your own personal life. What would make your life better? It is not always an increase in salary or an increase in wage. It might be the opposite of that. Maybe a decrease in salary, but an increase in free time or an increase in a mentally healthy environment where you can feel like yourself as opposed to, well, thank goodness.

It goes back to a joke that I always appreciate from the show 30 Rock where Alec Baldwin’s character has a heart attack and ends up in the hospital. And he’s visited and he opens his eyes and the first thing he says is, I should have spent more time at the office. It’s a great joke because it’s never been said.

Nobody’s ever said that. So dollar signs as a measurement of quality is not always the easy interchange. Finally I wanted to share this comment from AXDSC who was revisiting our current conversation around DIY and when does DIY end? Become too much. And there was this little blip from AX who said, I had a good friend who was a DIY enthusiast, but still always says I can make more money.

I can’t make more time when discussing choosing what to DIY. Really easy metric. I really like that. Is the DIY worth it? You can’t make more time. So how are you using that time?

There was a recently I saw, um, I was watching a YouTube video. I can’t remember who it was, and then he was wearing a t shirt that said, I like to DIY.

And then it had this kind of like equation below it. And it was like, basically it worked out to spending three times the cost, but loving every minute of it. Um, right. And it was like, people use DIY as a way to save money. And it’s like, yeah, but it might end up costing you way more because you spent five times the amount of time working on this thing when you can be doing other things.

And so it’s like, you have to factor all that in. So it’s, it’s, it’s funny. DIY is really kind of a, a way of life more than anything else.

It is. And it’s something I’ve been coming across in my own creative projects as I’ve think I’ve shared here before, and I’ve. with Matt, I’ve been doing some adventure writing for D& D and begun the process of actually marketing these things.

I currently have a Kickstarter going and one of the things I’m wrestling with is, okay, I’m trying to do this myself, but am I actually benefiting myself if I’m spending hours and hours and hours learning how to, and doing the formatting as opposed to paying somebody who is a designer who can do the formatting for me?

Yes. I’m looking at dollar signs and saying, Ooh, that much money really? But then when it comes down to it. Is the 15 hours I’m spending trying to do it myself really time well spent? So I’m beginning to have those equations pop up in my own life. So it’s on the forefront of my brain right now. So these comments from all of you are really hitting the target.

On now to our conversation about Matt’s most recent, this is his episode, are shrouded rooftop wind turbines, which is a phrase that’s harder to say than you would think. The future of energy, question mark. He dropped this episode on May 14th, 2024. Oh my gosh, we’re almost halfway through the year. What is happening?

This comment from David Young, As a former high rise window cleaner, spending a lot of time on the side of a tall building, I can confirm the intensity of updrafts are so strong that it can prevent us from working on a particular side because the winds are too powerful on that side. Although I may not be an engineer, I am the son, nephew, and grandson of engineers, and I think this is a viable alternative option for energy gathering.

Keep up the great work, Matt. So first of all, David, that job, I mean, come on.

I, I, I’ve said this many times. I live and work in New York city. I am accustomed to seeing the window cleaners. I am accustomed to being. in a upper floor of a large tall building and suddenly having a man or woman descending behind me with a squeegee and cleaning the window as I, and then it

was always disturbing when you’d hear a ka-thunk and you turn around, there’s just a man on the other side of the window.

It’s like, this isn’t right. What are you doing?

Yeah. Yeah. And watching them very casually, like drift downward and like wave at people.


Like, oh, David, I like, it’s a former high rise window cleaner. I think it’s the kind of job that I would be able to do maybe once. I wouldn’t be able to do it once. Buy a new pair of pants and move on.

And there was this comment from San Sim who wrote, With all these cool micro turbine ideas, There’s always the question of, okay, can I buy it from my home and when, but usually that is not the case, sadly. Do you want to talk a little bit about the wind turbines themselves? There were a lot of comments from people saying, but why not at home?

My expectation is that this would make a bit of noise that on a rooftop, in a city on a skyscraper is negligible. You talk about noise pollution in your video about this, but for a home, I imagine this might sound a little bit like having a nonstop dryer, like a clothes dryer going just constantly in the background.

Yeah. I mean, the, the noise level depends on the speed of the wind. So 46 decibels is considered the, you know, like acceptable thing where you don’t end up like bashing your head against a wall because it’s so annoying. At a specific speed, if the winds got heavier than that, you’d start to have problems.

But at the same time, you’d be hearing the wind noise probably over the wind turbine at that point. But yes, noise pollution is a problem where if you have it on top of a skyscraper on the side of a skyscraper, it’s far enough removed from people in that realm that you’re not going to notice it. Where if you had on top of a house, it’s going to be very obvious that it’s there.

So it’s, It’s definitely not something I would want on my home. Even existing turbines that you can get for just the little horizontal access wind turbines, the little ones you can already get, they’re all over the market. They have a lot of noise. So it’s like if they’re too close to your house, you’re, it’s going to be annoying.

I’ve heard from numerous people that have them on their property that have said, yeah, you can definitely hear it all the time. Just out there cranking away, making noise. And if, depending on what your sensitivity is to that, it’s going to make it a non starter for a lot of people.

Yeah. For me, my sensitivity to that would be, I would probably be chewing chalk within 15 minutes.

And I would be absolutely certain I was losing my mind after 20.

This comment from Leo Mullet struck me. Erasmus was brilliant, he says. He drew the first diagram of the Earth with a molten core, he experimented with carriage design, and he did have ideas about evolution. This stuck out for me because in your video, you talk about there’s this classic design that was presented in what century?

Oh, it was the 1800s


I remember correctly. Yes. And it’s strange similarity to contemporary research designs and your team. first thought based on the beginnings of the research. Oh, these must be related. There’s too much similarity here. And then it turned out there was not, it was just synchronicity or coincidence.

And I’m wondering, have you been keeping an eye out for other cases of that kind of synchronicity or coincidence, or can you think of places in your recent research in other topics where that has been? The case two research teams on different sides of the planet following a similar path or times when a old design has popped up again in similar fashion to this where it wasn’t anticipated that they were rebuilding the wheel, but they effectively were.

Uh, the most often time we, I see comments like this, or I see this kind of research where it’s like people are making kind of false correlations. It tends to be around wind technology for some reason. Interesting. Um, yeah. Uh, we did a video a while back about Harmony Turbines and their vertical access wind turbine design.

You get people kind of coming out of the woodwork saying this has been tried before, it’s not gonna work and it’s blah blah blah and they have all the reasons because of the stuff in the past. And. it. They’re not wrong. That stuff that they’re citing is true, but it’s like, you can’t, it’s apples and oranges.

It’s like, what Harmony is doing is different from what you just cited. It might look like it on the surface, but in reality, it’s actually different. So it’s, it’s one of those. It’s like people, it’s human nature. It’s like, we all do it. We find these things that look alike and our human brains are pattern, pattern matching machines.

And so we make these correlations that we think are true. And they’re just not when you dive into the details. Um, and so that’s And I’m not casting shade against specific people, but it’s like, I’ve noticed it tends to be people who are, uh, very well versed in some of these, uh, aspects. I’m not going to say they’re necessarily engineers specifically, but like people who do know a lot about a specific thing in a specific genre, they tend to make those, uh, Connections because they have so much of a back history and understanding of some of the stuff.

So I think there’s kind of like this, it makes it easier for them to find these kind of connections that actually aren’t there that if they dove into it a little further, I think they would discover, Oh no, this is different on the surface level. They think they understand. What it is and it’s creates those false connections.

I mean, that was actually the heart of what caused us to do this video in the first place was an engineer had made that false connection.

It’s interesting because that kind of self reinforcing pattern recognition is not just evident in, in what you’re talking about. It is the heart of conspiracy theories.

It is, it’s the cause of astrology. It is reading tea leaves. It, like you start looking for these patterns. And like you said, our brains are built to do that. I see it in my work constantly. I work in a office around, It’s analytical. And the team I work on, we all reinforce the idea of certain clues indicate certain problems.

And we go digging to see if those are true. 80 percent of the time, we find that it’s not true, but the pattern was there that fit enough. So it’s a little bit like We are the pigeons responding to the silhouette of the owl that keeps us from wanting to go there. Even if there’s no owl actually there. So it’s this kind of, we are so well versed in the details of certain types of language that when we see hints of that language, our radar goes off and it’s hard to turn it off.

It’s hard to turn it off.

Yeah, I can kind of equate that to my own experience too as a user experience designer. It’s like, you can put yourself in a box because you work so closely with computer engineers and software developers on how to How something has to be built, how the tech, what the technology is capable of and not capable of.

And you start to, as a designer, understand, okay, here’s the boxes and the boundaries of what I’m allowed to do and not do. And so as time goes on, it’s like you might end up designing something that’s putting yourself inside that box where if you had pretended the box wasn’t there and designed, outside of it, and then went to the engineers and saying, Can we push the envelope?

Is there a way to do this? They’d be like, Oh, no, actually, we might be able to do that. If we kind of contort things and do things in a slightly different way, we might be able to make that work. But you start to kind of be self selective and, and kind of narrow your vision, um, based on the knowledge that you have, even though it’s impartial and it might not be, uh, complete.

So it’s, it’s human nature. It’s like we all fall into this trap. It’s, it’s unavoidable. We just have to try to make sure that we’re Remembering that we have these blinders on, we have to take them off from time to time, dig a little deeper.

Is there anything about the, the turbines that your video looked into that makes you think that it is more or less viable in the midterm, like maybe five to 10 years?

Do you anticipate that this is a model that you would not be surprised to see in city landscapes? Or do you think there is something that’s still a hurdle in getting it to actually happen? Produced to the level that would make it that easily adopted.

I will not say one specific technology is going to make it or not, like the specific company.

So it’s like Ventum Dynamics. I’m not going to say theirs is going to be the one versus Aeromine or this. Yeah. I do think Of all these companies I’ve talked about for urban wind capture devices, somebody is going to get it to click. Somebody’s going to make it work. So at some point we’ll start seeing some design of something on top of skyscrapers and stuff like that.

It seems inevitable to me that it will eventually happen. Which one does it? I have, I’m not going to call it at all because the main problem I think is inertia. It’s just, just inertia to change and to try to do something different like this is going to be really hard to get people to want to even take that risk.

So getting a company to put it on the side of their building, on the top of their building is going to be. Challenging. So it’s like, as these companies can push against that inertia and get more companies to try it and they can pilot test it and show, Hey, look how much money they saved, how much energy they generated.

As soon as you can start to prove that out, then you can start to break through and get more and more people on board. So I think that’s the biggest challenge right now. It’s not the fact that the tech still needs more time in the oven. Necessarily, it’s more of a, just, change is hard. Get people on board.


that sounds like it goes back to, once again, like, people advocating with their policy makers, their local government, their regional government, state governments, pushing up the chain, pushing for policies that would encourage the adoption of this. Whether it be rebates, whether it be policies around new.

New development of new buildings. If new buildings were required to have a certain energy percentage, be sustainable source, you, you could end up putting the, the builders in a position where they are the ones making the choice to put these things on the roofs and then it’s a done deal for whoever is using that building.

So, that’s another aspect of this that I think is important to keep in mind. It goes back to the smart city argument. The city is only as smart as the people. So people start being smart and pushing for these policies that you think would be helpful in your neck of the woods. Thank you as always for your comments.

It’s always what drives the heart of this program and it helps steer the ship at the mothership program, which is Undecided with Matt Ferrell. Before we sign off, Matt, is there anything coming up on the main channel that you want to share with our listeners and viewers? Uh, there’s

the next episode is going to be about solid state batteries, comparing two different takes on companies that have different chemistries and approaches to making a solid state battery and bringing it to market.

And both of them are very, very close to getting it out on the market. And it’s been this long, long promise technology that’s always seems five to 10 years away. We’re much closer than five to 10 years away now. Uh, and it’s really interesting to see these two different approaches.

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