Wind-powered turbines are a viable, but complex, approach to generating renewable power, we all know that. The standard configuration has the blades connected to and turning the generator through a gearbox, with the entire assembly mounted up on the tower. While this certainly works, it puts a lot of weight and complex electromechanical "stuff" up in the nacelle, which adds to tower-construction and overall maintenance issues.
A recent article in Machine Design discussed an interesting alternative approach. The article, "Hydraulic Wind Turbines?", explained and discussed having the blades turn a hydraulic pump in the nacelle, and have the pumped fluid then drive a generator at the base.
The author pointed out that this is a tried-and-true approach, and with significant industry engineering experience, but on a smaller scale. In fact, the best thing about the article was that it presented the pros and cons of the hydraulic design in terms of cost, efficiency, scaling, and other factors. It did not say that this approach is always or even usually better, only that it might be better in some circumstances and should be considered.
This is what engineering is really about: looking as objectively as possible at ways to solve a problem honestly admitting the unknowns of challenges, and recognizing that the standard, "conventional wisdom" solution may not be the right choice. It's all about the tradeoffs and priorities, not blindly implementing the common approach before considering if viable and better alternatives are available.♦