By: Joshua Barrie
A lot of people moan about how wind turbines make the countryside look bad. Clean, renewable energy often comes at a price. Enter “turbine trees” — one company’s way of tackling the issue of aesthetics in sustainability.
Designer NewWind R&D has created a “silent” turbine called the Tree Vent that is supposed to blend into the landscapes which house it. It’s a 36ft-tall structure made of steel with 72 artificial leaves.
It’s the leaves that produce the power — just like the photosynthesis of plants. Each one is a “L’Aeroleaf”, a mini turbine attached to the main structure that features an integrated generator. NewWind says the cables and electronics lie inside the leaves, and the technology is specially created to handle the most extreme weather. They’re not restricted to “trees” either — there are developments to see them fitted to garden fences, balconies, and other structures.
The Tree Vent itself takes advantage of lower air flow, says NewWind, but can make use of all “types of wind, 360-degree turbulent or laminar”. (Turbulent wind is swirling and chaotic; laminar is streamlined and layered).
Importantly, unlike regular wind turbines, these have towns and cities in mind too. Because they’re made to look “organic”, they can be installed in urban environments and actually brighten places up.
“The design of biomimetic inspiration allows seamless integration into all types of landscape, whether urban or rural,” NewWind writes on its website. “All the technology is invisible; no cables or apparent generators. Everything is integrated into the branches and trunks.”
The organisation adds: “By combining a large number of micro-turbines in an organic form, the Tree Vent is able to exploit any kinetic energy and accumulate Watts.”
Each Tree Vent is able to produce 3.1KW, Tree Hugger explains. That’s not a huge amount, but could be harnessed to power city street lights, or in a group, power buildings.
Tree Hugger says the Tree Vent is the idea of French entrepreneur Jerome Michaud-Laviere, who noticed the way the wind rustled the leaves on the trees. He saw them being lifted and spun around and thought an energy device could do the same to generate energy.
Now, the technology is going to be installed — or planted, perhaps — for the first time. New Wind has announced that on May 12, one of the turbines will be placed at the Place de la Concorde in Paris as a public demonstration. The idea is to show people that renewable energy doesn’t have to look bad.