7 Outdated Wind Turbine Designs That Never Caught On

7 Outdated Wind Turbine Designs That Never Caught On

The Darrieus Turbine

The Darrieus turbine, named after French engineer Georges Darrieus who patented the design in 1931, was one of the first vertical axis wind turbines. This type of turbine has blades that are attached vertically on a rotating shaft. The curvature of the blades allows them to capture wind energy as they spin, regardless of wind direction.

While Darrieus turbines were touted for their omnidirectional operation, they had several drawbacks that prevented widespread adoption:

Despite enthusiasm in the 1970s, few Darrieus turbine installations were built. Interest waned as cheaper horizontal axis turbines dominated the market.

The Cycloturbine

In the 1920s, French inventor Georges Jeanne developed the cycloturbine, a novel vertical axis wind turbine. This design used curved airfoils that rotated around a central mast inside a fixed cylinder. The narrow gap between the airfoils and cylinder amplified wind speeds.

The cycloturbine offered several advantages:

However, major disadvantages prevented widespread adoption:

While some experimental cycloturbines were installed in the 1930s, the design could not compete with more efficient three-bladed turbines. Interest faded by the 1950s.

The Savonius Rotor

In 1922, Finnish engineer Sigurd Savonius designed an S-shaped vertical axis wind turbine intended for low-power operations. The two half-cylinder blades operated based on the difference in drag force on the concave and convex sides.

The Savonius turbine had a simple design with several benefits:

However, major drawbacks prevented widespread power generation use:

While Savonius rotors found niche uses like ventilation and pumping, they were unsuitable for electricity generation. The high torque but low speed made them impractical.

The Giromill

In the 1930s, Georges Darrieus proposed an alternative to his original turbine design called the Giromill. It consisted of two or three straight blades attached to a vertical shaft. The linear vertical blades induced less bending stress than curved blades.

The Giromill offered a few benefits:

However, significant disadvantages resulted in only prototype development:

While conceptually simple, the Giromill proved unviable for power generation. The low efficiency and high pulsating torque were insurmountable flaws.

The Vortexis Hydrokinetic Turbine

In the mid 2000s, a company called Vortex Hydro Energy developed a radical turbine design called the Vortexis. This vertical axis turbine used helical blades inspired by the geometry of DNA molecules and whirlpools.

The complex blade shape promised several hypothetical advantages:

However, major problems became clear before commercialization:

Lacking funding and viable real-world data, the Vortexis concept stalled out and was abandoned around 2010. The radical turbine was only an unproven design.

The WindSphere

An unusual spherical wind turbine called the WindSphere was developed in Italy in the late 2000s. This hollow carbon fiber ball contained small vertical axis turbines around its equator.

Proposed benefits of this futuristic design included:

However, problems arose that prevented commercialization:

While visually striking, the WindSphere only made it to the concept phase. The high costs and unproven capabilities limited its prospects.

The Kite Turbine

In the 2000s, innovators proposed using large power kites to generate wind energy. This approach involved using a tethered wing floating at high altitude to drive a generator on the ground through a pulley system.

Potential upsides included:

However, troubling disadvantages hampered development:

While an interesting idea, kite turbines failed to progress beyond small-scale prototypes. The difficulty of controlling airborne equipment at scale proved prohibitive.


In the history of wind energy, many novel turbine designs were proposed and tested but never became viable options. While creative in concept, these outdated wind turbines faced issues from low efficiency and high costs to unproven real-world performance. Although some offered advantages on paper, their drawbacks halted further development. Practical engineering challenges prevented these radical designs from displacing conventional three-bladed horizontal axis turbines. However, their innovation may inspire future advances in wind technology.