A recent buzzword in the world of engineering is biomimicry. Biomimicry or biomimetics is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems, and Mistbreaker will soon feature a big biomimicry special. In the meanwhile, we can digest in a recent and breaking technical innovation from France, namely a tree-shaped structure with silent wind – turbines.
The innovation is incredibly interesting considering several factors. We all probably know that wind has a marvelous capacity for generating renewable energy. There are several perceived problems with today’s most frequently used turbines though, which is why they have been increasingly deployed off-shore and far away from people. Many less open-minded individuals fight the on-shore turbines since they might ruin the scenery of a landscape, for instance. Similarly, they are oftentimes accused of generating too much noise or taking up to much space.
Now, a French company called NewWind has been developing aesthetically pleasing, tree-shaped turbines meant to run silently within cities, at ground level. The innovation is simple named “L’Arbre à Vent” or in English “The Wind Tree”. The tree features 72 artificial leaves where each leave is a small turbine that rotates around a vertically directed axis. The leaves are very light-weight, which means that they can generate power from very small amounts of wind. Actually it takes nothing more than 4.4 mph (2 meters/second) of wind for them to function, and this is amount of wind is equal to a gentle breeze.
The entrepreneur behind NewWind whose name is Jérôme Michaud-Larivière told Hexapolis about how he came up with this ingenious idea in the first place:
“The idea came to me in a square where I saw the leaves tremble when there was not a breath of air… [the energy]had to come from somewhere and be translatable into watts”
According to Hexapolis, the design of this miniature wind turbine took engineers three long years of research to come up with and is ideal for urban locales. As opposed to traditional wind turbines which are usually situated far away from the city centers, the ‘Wind Tree’ aims at harnessing energy from the gentle air currents traversing in between the buildings and streets. The solution is much less intrusive than conventional wind turbines, since it operates silently and has also achieved quite a high level of aesthetically pleasing appearance.
According to Slashgear, each tree costs around $36,500 and can generate 3.1kW of power, which might seem as a hefty price for little result. However, as the leaves are expected to be spinning around 280 days a year it is expected to even out. The inventor Michaud-Larivière believes that it will prove to be profitable after only a year of average wind speed of 7.8 mph.
Each unit has its cables and generators sealed within its steel housing, and they can be either connected to public power grids or generate electricity for specific buildings or complexes. Also, according to Serious Wonder, the turbines are designed with birds in mind, since a lot of them get killed by conventional turbines. The electricity generated will likely be enough to power LED street lamps as well as charging stations for electric cars. In the future, this technology can be combined with other energy harvesters such as solar panels and so on. Several Wind Trees are scheduled to be installed in Paris this March as part of a test.