Very soon, we could expect greenery everywhere in our cities that are meant to generate electricity. Yes, this is true. A French team of engineers have designed an artificial ‘wind tree’ that uses wind energy to produce electricity. Mr. Jerome Michaud – Lariviere, founder of the Paris-based startup named New Wind, drew inspiration form the leaves he saw trembling in the air. The wind tree producing electricity is expected to go commercial by 2015.
It took researchers nearly three years to come up with their first 26 feet working prototype, which is now planted at the telecom City Pleumeur-Bodou commune in Brittany in northwestern France. The innovative wind tree features a steel trunk with multiple branches, hundreds of plastic leaves with tiny blades embedded inside them resting on the branches. These blades act as mini wind turbines resulting in rotating irrespective of the wind’s direction. Since the entire process is noiseless, it can be used for domestic as well as commercial power supply.
The aesthetically attractive tree which will cost £23,500 when goes on sale in late 2015 can generate electricity using air currents of mere 4.5 mph which can function around 320 days of the year – almost twice the number of days as a conventional machine.
Though the electricity tree is yet to be tested by an independent laboratory, Mr Michaud-Lariviere says that the tree is profitable after the air currents of 7.8 mph on average over one year.
In future, Mr Michaud sees these wind trees capturing small deposits of wind that flow into the city along the buildings and streets will be enough to feed LED street lights or a power station for electric vehicles. He also admits that at a height of 160 ft consistent winds are available but to capture those, huge machines would be required and to be planted, far from the site of actual energy consumption.
He hopes the tree can be integrated with other sources of power generation such as geothermal, photovoltaic, combined with energy-efficient buildings. He also plans to craft a perfect tree that feature leaves with natural fibers, roots capable of synthesizing geothermal energy and photosensitive cells covering the bark.
Robert Bellini, an engineering expert at the Environmental and Energy Mangement Agency, says that the scope of such wind tree plantations in the city remains quite low. Though expensive, planting the wind trees along the streets and parks is a great idea especially in remote sites which experience shortage of electricity.