Wind turbines have been touted as one possible answer to global warming, but they're terrible for birds and bats, they're noisy, and they're an eyesore.
Now, a French startup is announcing the Wind Tree, a small, silent version that it says is ideal for cities.
Traditional wind turbines are not silent: a paper from 2008, "Sustainable Energy Choices for a Nation," cites that wind energy "will undoubtedly create noise, which increases stress, which in turn increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer." Not that any human deaths from wind turbine annoyance have been reported yet.
"The main advantage of our technology is that it works with a very small input of energy and turbulent energy," says NewWind founder Jerome Michaud-Lariviere. It can even produce energy when the wind is blowing at no more than two meters per second of wind.
The cables from the Wind Tree, made by NewWind Energy Solutions, can be connected to the grid or connected to individual buildings.
Wind turbines work by the breeze being caught by blades, which spin a shaft. That shaft is connected to a generator that makes electricity. Wind flows vary enormously, including with the weather. Their dependence on wind is one reason wind turbines are typically built far from urban environments, even out to sea. (Another reason is people don't feel they enhance the view.)
The Wind Tree sort of looks like a tree. It consists of an 11-meter-tall vertical trunk from which "branches" come out. On the branches are 72 "leaves," which are the actual mini-turbines spinning around a vertical axis. According to Gizmag, the Wind Tree's output is calculated at 3.1 kW.
Traditional wind turbines require at least four or five meters of wind to get going, Michaud-Lariviere says. The upshot is that the cityscape Wind Tree will produce energy over more days in the year.
Make no mistake, you can't miss it. It's around three stories in height. Yet the startup insists it's designed to fit into the urban environment, as Parisians will be able to see when the prototype is installed at the Place de la Concorde on the Champs-Elysee between March 15 to March 17.
Why there? It was the first place in Paris to have electric lighting, in 1844, according to DesignNews.
Anyway, in contrast to the real deal, the trees aren't free. Each Wind Tree will run at around $37,000, says GizMag. NewWind says they should pay for themselves within two years and adds that it hopes to start mass production by early 2016.