Potsdam, New York [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Kenneth D. Visser, associate professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at Clarkson University, likes to work with air. From teaching undergraduate aircraft design and developing devices to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency on tractor trailers, to helping bring about a new generation of small wind turbines, he applies his understanding of the intricacies of air motion to modern day problems.On the other hand, Pragasen Pillay, the Jean Newell Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Clarkson, likes motors. Pillay focuses his research on electrical machine drives for industrial and alternate energy applications, including wind turbines. With wind power becoming one of the nation’s fastest growing industries, researchers like Visser and Pillay are helping businesses make wind economically competitive with other forms of energy by combining their knowledge to increase the aerodynamic and electrical efficiency of turbines. To accomplish this, Clarkson University is collaborating with Warner Energy in New York to develop small wind turbine design concepts that can be used in both urban and rural areas — and can operate efficiently in low wind areas. Warner Energy is a joint venture, combining the expertise of O’Brien & Gere, an engineering and project delivery company, and the Drescher Corporation. The collaborative research and development team’s research includes an increased optimized multi-blade/multi-rotor design for improved aerodynamics and the use of soft magnetic composite (SMC) for the axial field generator design. According to a recent article published in O’Brien & Gere’s corporate magazine Portfolio, two key technical hurdles need to be tackled for wind to become a truly viable source of renewable energy. First, more power must be extracted from areas with less wind. This is important because the majority of the U.S. population lives in lower wind speed areas. Second, the technology must become economically competitive so it is feasible for both homeowners and developers of large wind farms to adopt wind energy. “Today’s small turbines are only about half as efficient as theoretically possible,” said Visser. “If turbines can be made more compact and efficient, the cost effectiveness would promote owner interest and they could be mounted on building tops in metropolitan areas, on farms and even residential homes across the country.” A patent is pending on an optimized design concept and construction is underway on the full-scale 2.5 kilowatt prototype. The first bench-scale prototype was designed, built and tested at Clarkson.