It looks more like an air raid siren than a wind turbine, but a mechanical engineer's system could prove an important part of New Zealand's future clean energy supply, its backers say.
Dr Daryoush Allaei, chief executive of US-based company Sheerwind, visited Auckland University last week to give a lecture on the wind-snatching turbine he developed.
Dr Allaei told the Herald he saw his turbine, which features a ground-level funnel rather than propellors and a tall tower, as a good match for New Zealand's aspirations to source 90 per cent of its power from renewable energy by 2025.
The Invelox system, which is being rolled out at sites in the US, Europe and Middle East, is capable of generating large amounts of power from light breezes, with zero noise.
"Instead of snatching bits of energy from the wind as it passes through the blades of a rotor, Invelox captures the wind and directs it."
The generators were able to keep working with winds travelling at 3.2 kilometres per hour, while traditional generators required winds of 14 kilometres per hour, Dr Allaei said.
Further, a single tower can generate up to 25 MW of electrical power - enough to power around 25,000 homes.
Its funnel drew wind through pipes, then down into turbine generator systems, which converted it into electricity.
As no pivoting turbine or moving components were needed at the intake, Dr Allaei said the system could be built right next to, or inside, cities.
In New Zealand, the technology has been licensed to Pacific Wind Limited.
Its executive vice president, Reza Sehdehi, said negotiations were underway with several power companies, Wellington City Council and Auckland Council, and Waiheke Island was already being looked at for a pilot project.
Mr Sehdehi felt that energy production in New Zealand was presently too expensive.
"We believe this technology will solve these issues."