Flow concept turns wind into light with novel bamboo turbine
By Paul Ridden
May 3, 2012
Grid-powered street lighting is something that many of us take for granted, but there are parts of the world where electricity is a scarce resource and when the sun goes down, local pedestrian traffic in areas where public lighting is not abundant can all-but cease due to safety concerns. In searching for an inexpensive off-grid solution for places like the Colombian city of Cartagena, designer Alberto Vasquez looked to the wind for help. His Flow concept makes use of readily-available bamboo for the construction of a vertical wind turbine in a similar vein to the Power Flowers concept, but with LED light modules at the end of each blade. As the wind catches the blades, the LEDs light up the walkway beneath.
Vasquez – who has also designed a cardboard desklamp and a walking light as well as my personal favorite, a cigarette packet shaped like a coffin – says that although Colombian coastal walkways can be bustling by day, they're virtually abandoned at night due to sparse public lighting. He says that the year-round winds in places Cartagena could be put to good use. Colombia is also said to have the second highest woody bamboo diversity in Latin America, boasting some 70 species.
The Flow concept has been designed to address a specific problem in a specific region, but may well be a good fit for eco-parks, energy-efficient business developments or a university campus looking to cut energy costs. It features bamboo blades that spiral around a vertical axis, which Vasquez says can hold the wind from every direction. A low-energy LED module sits at either end of each bamboo wind blade, lighting up as the structure spins in the wind and appearing to give off rows of unbroken bands of light – at least, that's the theory.
Flow hasn't actually made it beyond the scale model stage as yet, so there's no way of knowing whether the current design will capture enough wind to generate sufficient light for it to be of practical use. Such questions will doubtless be answered when the designer begins prototyping shortly in collaboration with the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest, Hungary, but perhaps the design would benefit from having a PV panel installed atop the structure to capture the sun's rays during the day and guarantee light provision in the event of low wind.
Such additions, however, would likely push production costs up and put Flow beyond the reach of the folks it was designed to help, and also add complication to street lighting meant to be assembled by an unskilled local workforce.
The following video shows Vasquez building a scale model of his concept, using battery-powered LED lights to show off its lighting potential:
Source: Alberto Vasquez
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