The California Institute of Technology is experimenting with and field testing use of vertical-axis wind turbines. This configuration is said to provide more energy on a smaller footprint.
The technology is explained in this paper:
Dabiri JO (2011) “Potential order-of-magnitude enhancement of wind farm power density via counter-rotating vertical-axis wind turbine arrays,” Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, in press.
The abstract reads:
Modern wind farms comprised of horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs) require significant land resources to separate each wind turbine from the adjacent turbine wakes. This aerodynamic constraint limits the amount of power that can be extracted from a given wind farm footprint. The resulting inefficiency of HAWT farms is currently compensated by using taller wind turbines to access greater wind resources at high altitudes, but this solution comes at the expense of higher engineering costs and greater visual, acoustic, radar and environmental impacts. We investigated the use of counter-rotating vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) in order to achieve higher power output per unit land area than existing wind farms consisting of HAWTs. Full-scale field tests of 10-m tall VAWTs in various counter-rotating configurations were conducted under natural wind conditions during summer 2010. Whereas modern wind farms consisting of HAWTs produce 2 to 3 watts of power per square meter of land area, these field tests indicate that power densities an order of magnitude greater can potentially be achieved by arranging VAWTs in layouts that enable them to extract energy from adjacent wakes and from above the wind farm. Moreover, this improved performance does not require higher individual wind turbine efficiency, only closer wind turbine spacing and a sufficient vertical flux of turbulence kinetic energy from the atmospheric surface layer. The results suggest an alternative approach to wind farming that has the potential to concurrently reduce the cost, size, and environmental impacts of wind farms.
Read the full 34-page paper here.
See video and more references here. Graphic below from CalTech.