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Windstalk concept is a wind farm without the turbines


October 13, 2010

The Windstalk concept would generate electricity from the wind without turbines

The Windstalk concept would generate electricity from the wind without turbines

Image Gallery (7 images)

Wind turbines are an increasingly popular way to generate clean energy with large-scale wind farms springing up all over the world. However, many residents near proposed wind farm sites have raised concerns over the aesthetics and the low frequency vibrations they claim are generated by wind turbines. An interesting Windstalk concept devised by New York design firm Atelier DNA could overcome both these problems while still allowing a comparable amount of electricity to be generated by the wind.

Devised as a potential clean energy generation project/tourist attraction for Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, the Windstalk concept consists of 1,203 carbon fiber reinforced resin poles, which stand 55 meters (180 feet) high and are anchored to the ground in concrete bases that range between 10 and 20 meters (33-66 ft) in diameter. The poles, which measure 30cm (12 in.) in diameter at the base, tapering up to a diameter of 5cm (2 in.) at the top, are packed with a stack of piezoelectric ceramic discs. Between the discs are electrodes that are connected by cables that run the length of each pole – one cable connects the even electrodes, while another connects the odd ones.

So, instead of relying on the wind to turn a turbine to generate electricity, when the pole sways in the wind, the stack of piezoelectric discs are compressed, generating a current through the electrodes. In a nice visual way to indicate how much – if any – power the poles are generating, the top 50cm (20 in.) of each pole is fitted with an LED lamp that glows and dims relative to the amount of power. So when the wind stops, the LED’s go dark.

The Windstalk concept at night

As a way to maximize the amount of electricity the Windstalk farm would generate, the concept also places a torque generator within the concrete base of each pole. As the poles sway, fluid is forced through the cylinders of an array of current generating shock absorbers to convert the kinetic energy of the swaying poles into electrical energy.

Because the electricity generation capabilities of a Windstalk field site would depend on the wind, the designers have devised a way to store the energy. Below the field of poles would be two large chambers located on top of each other and shaped like the bases of the poles but inverted, (see the cross section image of the pole base section below). When the wind is blowing, part of the electricity generated is used to power a set of pumps that moves water from the lower chamber to the upper one. Then, when the wind dies down, the water flows from the upper chamber down to the lower chamber, turning the pumps into generators.

The Windstalk concept

The WIndstalk project is still only a concept, so the designers haven’t determined the optimal shape for the stalks, saying computer simulations could be used to devise the best profile for maximizing the pole’s movement and variation. Even so, the design team estimates that the overall electricity output of the concept would be comparable to that of a conventional wind turbine array because, even though a single wind turbine that is limited to the same height as the poles may produce more energy than a single Windstalk, the Windstalks can be packed in much denser arrays.

The Atelier DNA Windstalk concept took out second prize in the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) competition this year that asked entrants to “design a series of land/environmental art installations that uniquely combine aesthetic intrigue and artistic concept with clean energy generation.”

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick

Well I have to admit that if this works that this is one of the most clever wind generators I've ever heard of? :-)

14th October, 2010 @ 04:28 am PDT

Wonderful concept. If it is realised practically,it will be a major breakthrough in Wind Energy Utilisation.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
14th October, 2010 @ 05:49 am PDT

I think I would prefer to see wind stalks than windmills. From a building like the Burj Dubai (I know, its not in Abu Dhabi), it would probably look like a small meadow. Masdar City has a lot of great ideas. I read a great article about it ( The solar collection systems are pretty cool as well.

14th October, 2010 @ 06:10 am PDT

When they say "may generate coparable power," it sounds like they mean the same power per land area. The important metric is of course $$$/watt-hour and environmental impact. Both are apparently not important enough to mention in the article, however!

Richard Cook
14th October, 2010 @ 06:30 am PDT

Couldn't something like this be used to generate wave power?

14th October, 2010 @ 07:10 am PDT

The ideas just keep on comin'! How's this for a desert forest? And functional, too. Works day and night, probably makes interesting music and might even encourage crops between the stalks. It will also be a pychodelic experience driving the highways at dawn and dusk.

14th October, 2010 @ 07:52 am PDT

While the concept is fine, (except for the water part which destroys the efficiency) I think the stalks will simply take one problem and shift it: instead of a low freq rumbling, (largely caused by imbalances in the rotor systems of huge wind turbines) now there will be an eerie whistle which residents or neighbors will (mark my words) find even more annoying than the rumble.

14th October, 2010 @ 08:52 am PDT

The other problem with this concept, besides the valid point made by Soundoctor, is that because the wind stalks would be quite close together, the underlying land wouldn't be usable for growing crops or grazing animals.


14th October, 2010 @ 09:00 am PDT

Great idea. It could be used in offshore installations. The stalks are likely to be more durable than wind turbines of comparable capacity and as Davey points out, a similar array (probably with stalk lengths and thicknesses tuned to deal with wave and current motion could be set up to protrude from the bottom of the offshore platform to harness wave and current motions to supplement the wind power generated by the stalks on the upper surface of the platform. Maybe the stalks and the spaces between them could also be covered with photocells to harness solar energy at the same time... or the space between stalks could be given over to algae farms supplied with seawater to convert atmospheric CO2 to biodiesel. If the buoyancy and thickness of the downward pointing stalks were adjusted appropriately, they could partly lift the platform above the average water surface to maximize the motion of those stalks relative to the platform.

Ullrich Fischer
14th October, 2010 @ 09:23 am PDT

The tower/propeller wind turbans kill birds with the low pressure area created behind the propeller. 1200 birds a month in the East Bay installation alone.

Where a ridge funnel with exhaust towers would work better. Lower profile less of an eyesore. There are many better designs and they would cause less collateral damage. And produce more power.

Why aren't we using them?

DanMar Dinsmore
14th October, 2010 @ 09:25 am PDT

There's concern with current windmill farms in that the birds [endangered and otherwise] can't see the spinning turbines and fly into them. The windstalk concept looks like a solution to this problem. However, I do agree with Soundoctor. Adjoining neighbors will probably find something to complain about.

Kristy Hughes
14th October, 2010 @ 10:01 am PDT

Not to mention the clackety-clack of these things banging into each other.

They could also cover the outside of the stalks with thin film solar so they generate power that way as well.

14th October, 2010 @ 10:51 am PDT

the hydraulic "batteries" are a nice touch. whether or not it works as well as hoped, it would be nice to see it in action.

14th October, 2010 @ 11:22 am PDT

There is a plethora of great ideas to save and generate energy in the world. As my first employer (ex-Zenith employee) would say. "time to shoot the engineers and go into production."

Mark A
14th October, 2010 @ 02:47 pm PDT

I am surprised that they do not incorporate a structure around the perimeter to funnel the available wind into this wind farm, or an attached funnel on conventional propeller systems.

14th October, 2010 @ 05:57 pm PDT

Aesthetically pleasing - but that's about it.

Energy cannot be created from nothing and if the stalks aren't moving much then they're not creating much energy. Which is exactly what would occur in a wind strong enough to generate any meaningful power.

Having said that it would make for a nice piece of installation art!!!

14th October, 2010 @ 06:00 pm PDT

It's not dissimilar to windbelts - turns oscillations of a linear object into power. Try google searching windbelts if you're interested in finding out more....

14th October, 2010 @ 06:02 pm PDT

This could be very bad actually - all that wind ploughing into the stalks... if there were too many of them and it was a strong east wind blowing, it could spin the earth backwards.

Mr Stiffy
14th October, 2010 @ 08:30 pm PDT

These will work in gusty conditions, but where there are stable wind, are completely useless?

Unless I am missing something in the design, and they actually vibrate or oscillate naturally?

Nigel Pearson
14th October, 2010 @ 08:31 pm PDT

ok but wwhat about the boids,the it safer for the birds critters or the same?

Cowfy Kaufman
15th October, 2010 @ 12:22 am PDT

I went through the comments and yes quite a lot of them have a valid point for & against the Windstalk concept. But if the same is to succeed these points may help the project team to understand the pro and cons and come up with solutions for the same.

Shirish Devade
15th October, 2010 @ 05:45 am PDT

Some of these designers need to refresh their Physics 101 course

16th October, 2010 @ 07:23 pm PDT

I have read it twice and thought about it. I really wanted to understand

A) how this was attrative, it clearly is not

B) how it is pratical, it clearly is not

C) how it is better then conventional Large turbines... Clearly it is not.

It's absurd and I have doubt the private sector will ever fund such a stupid idea.

I think the funniest thing is it is near a road.. LOL I don't drink but I am have known a lot of drunks. They would never be able to resist driving through this. Heck sober I am finding it hard to resist driving through it, and it doesn't even exist.

Simply stated its wind power gone wrong. Just goes to show a stupid idea, and some computer generated pictures get you the praise on the internet. If this is ever used by a private organization it will be the day I get a vasectomy. I would not want a kid in a world where crap like this gets built.

Michael Mantion
17th October, 2010 @ 02:14 pm PDT

The bird kill objection comes up every single time windmills appear. At Altamont Pass, it was a major unforseen problem. Since that early installation, a great deal of progress has been made. See this article, among many others:

18th October, 2010 @ 03:05 pm PDT

So many ideas, some good, some not so much. What's the one question asked of all of them?

financial feasibility, then of course is aesthetic feasibility. IMHO, the technology IS here NOW. Its been here for some time. Distributed power generation through thermal solar mounted on leased commercial rooftop property is practical and possible. It's a win-win. benefits include added income for property owners, reduced perceived peak loading on the grid, JOBS JOBS and, oh, yeah, JOBS! The other proven technology is low grade geothermal.

Just think, the government wants to spend billions to go to Mars but couldn't spend any appreciable amount on these solutions?!! C'mon now! As far as Solar goes, ever notice the first thing you hear is "...we'll have to do a feasibility study..." Really? ANOTHER ONE? Just another example of government as an "industry" not an organization.

What would it take for the government to get responsive and get real?


20th October, 2010 @ 05:51 am PDT

The bird strike numbers do not stand up to scrutiny. What they do is show up at a wind farm, and then count the dead birds, and then they count the scavengers in the area. Then they apply voodoo to the numbers and come up with numbers far higher than actual counts, by either, visual counting by watchers, or by electronic counting from blade impact sensors. Two methods that produce very similar numbers.

17th December, 2010 @ 09:14 am PST

I think this a much more forward thinking and elegant than huge, noisy, oil leaking wind turbines. They could take it a step further and add small, retractable limbs and leaves to not only create the appearance of trees, but to increase or decrease the surface area for high and low winds as well. I think if something like this was done right it would a pleasant thing to have in or near communities. I like it.

22nd January, 2011 @ 01:18 pm PST

You know, I am going into the wind turbine industry, and I find it funny to find moronic comments from idiots like RevCat and his ilk that only mimic what they hear about wind turbines. They need to come out of their time warp and do some fresh research about wind turbines. The turbines of today are not the ones that were developed when he was in nappies. Next anything, other than nuclear, coal or petroleum generated electricity, is better.

I find these wind stalks to be a possible choice among "green" alternative. As of right now they are a "concept" but I find them a great possibility. The only negative I see is that the land in between the stalks cannot be used for much because of the concrete. Unless they want to set up hydroponic farms around them.

This is a competition to save our planet, tho' a little late. There will be not a single solution or winner takes all. If we can find enough "green" solutions for power generation then we all win. What I find interesting is that the oil lords have decided to make an entire city with a low carbon print. Again do your research, get out from behind your computer, go to a newer wind farm. Get a reality check. Also the problems with bird deaths have been dealt with better designs. It is mostly the older turbine design, and a lack of attention to bird migration patterns that caused the deaths. Again you are stuck in the '70's and '80's. You would think that in this information age on the internet that your opinions would be with TODAY'S INFORMATION, not your parents, or teachers outdated prejudices.

Janice Lea Cerda-Vanlandingham
18th March, 2011 @ 12:29 pm PDT

Looks good but would not work!.

Energy production only by wind change. The round profile does not catch much wind energy. This is a "Designer" project with nice images but with no clear thinking or engineering added. No birds are killed but hardly any energy would be generated.

Kurt Baumann
19th January, 2012 @ 07:18 am PST
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