Windwheel concept combines tourist attraction with "silent turbine"

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The Dutch Windwheel concept is a mixed-use development comprising two rings, one of which uses an electrostatic wind energy convertor to generate electricity

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The Dutch have long used windmills to harness wind energy. A new concept proposed for city of Rotterdam, however, is surely one of the most elaborate windmills ever conceived. The Dutch Windwheel is a huge circular wind energy converter that houses apartments, a hotel and a giant coaster ride.

The concept is designed to be part energy icon, part tourist attraction and part residential building. It is a 174-m (571-ft) structure comprising two huge rings that appear to lean against each other. "We wanted to combine a big attraction for Rotterdam with a state-of-the-art sustainable concept," explains Lennart Graaff of the Dutch Windwheel Corporation, to Gizmag.

The larger outer ring houses 40 pods on rails that move around the ring and provide those who visit with views of Rotterdam and its port. The smaller inner ring, meanwhile, houses 72 apartments, a 160-room hotel across seven floors and a panoramic restaurant and viewing gallery. Perhaps most remarkable feature of of all, however, is a huge "bladeless turbine" that spans the center smaller ring.

Although this may look and sound like some of the more out-there architectural concepts that Gizmag has featured, it is actually based on existing (albeit prototypical) technology. The electrostatic wind energy convertor (EWICON) was developed at Delft Technical University and generates electricity by harnessing the movement of charged water droplets in the wind. Its lack of moving parts makes it noiseless and easier to maintain than traditional turbines.

Dhiradj Djairam, of the TU Delft team that developed the EWICON, tells Gizmag that the Dutch Windwheel Corporation has expressed "a serious interest" in the technology. Djairam says he has provided an explanation of the technology to the organization and provided a rough outline for a realistic research and development program. To date, only small-scale research projects have been carried out, with additional funding opportunities being explored.

The Dutch Windwheel concept has other sustainable aspects, too. Photovoltaic thermal hybrid panels would be used to contribute to the generation of electricity, and rainwater would be collected for use in the building. The Dutch Windwheel Corporation says the building itself is designed to be built with locally-sourced materials, and in such a way as it could ultimately be disassembled and re-used elsewhere.

Among the other features of the design are space for commercial functions in the structure's plinth, and foundations that are underwater, making it it look as though the structure is floating. We're told that the amount of power the Dutch Windwheel will require to run – and be able to generate – is not yet clear. Likewise, the final technologies and additional sustainability features that would be present in the building have yet to be finalized.

The Dutch Windwheel Corporation comprises the Rotterdam-based companies BLOC, DoepelStrijkers and Meysters. The consortium says that one of the aims of the project is to showcase the Dutch clean energy industry.

According to the corporation, the project has been in development for almost two years and talks to bring the concept to fruition are underway. Should it be realized, the organization says it expects around 1.5 million visitors per year, and for the development to be profitable within a decade.

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