Power Flowers to domesticate wind turbines
By Paul Ridden
March 3, 2011
Arguments still rage on, but it's generally accepted that we need to roll out more sustainable power solutions and break away from our reliance on fuels that are going to disappear one day. As advances in solar, wave and wind technologies gather pace, Dutch design house NL Architects has been looking at ways to bring wind turbines closer to where the power they produce is needed, instead of being located on remote hillsides. Inspired by a vertical-axis turbine called Eddy, the team thinks the answer may lie in tree-like creations named Power Flowers.
While most of us will offer strong vocal backing for the construction of wind farms, that can soon change if someone suggests building one nearby. As a result, the tri-blade towers get exiled to the middle of nowhere – or even further away. Instead of having a few high performance giants scattered throughout the land, NL Architects proposes a structure that would bring a few less efficient turbines together and place them closer to the users of the power they generate.
Embarking on the project, the designers asked themselves if it was possible to turn windmills into objects of desire. Bringing a few turbines together on a tree-like structure seemed the way to go, offering not-too-unpleasant aesthetics and power generation in one package. Using the familiar three-bladed turbine for such a creation would lead to similar issues as those currently faced by wind farm builders, so the team opted for the less efficient but not so unwieldy vertical-axis turbine instead.
The NL Architects design team has based its creation on an existing turbine created by Urban Green Energy called Eddy. The makers say that Eddy can be assembled in less than an hour, is safe to use in winds up to 120 mph (193 kph) and will last for at least 20 years. The Power Flowers structure would feature a hollow steel column with branches at the top. These branches would be home to either three or 12 Eddy-like turbines and could be deployed closer to, or even within, urban environments such as parks, streets or roadways.
Although vertical-axis turbines are considered less efficient than their tri-bladed bigger brothers, the Power Flowers design would allow for more of them to be packed into locations otherwise unavailable.
Using figures provided by Eddy's manufacturer, the team reckons that a three-turbine Power Flowers structure would generate over 13,000 kWh of power every year at an average wind speed of 5 meters per second and generate as little as 42.8db of noise at 12 meters per second. Each 12-turbine structure's annual power output for the same average wind speed is calculated at 55,000 kWh.
There are of course unresolved practical and engineering issues to overcome, which would make it very interesting to see if such a structure could actually jump from design software into the real world ... after which, we'd be watching closely for what sort of statistics would actually be produced and how such a thing would be received by the public at large.
Putting all that aside for a moment, would you object to one of these creations appearing outside your bedroom window or in the middle of your local park?