Generally speaking, the peculiar appearance of wind turbines coupled with the fact they perform better when up high and out in the open sees them banished to uninhabited countryside, or even out to sea. But a French entrepreneur believes that sculpting them in the form of an artificial tree could lead to wider adoption in urban centers, making use of low winds that circulate around buildings and streets.
The Wind Tree is the brainchild of Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, who has founded the French company New Wind to bring it to market. His team is set to install a Wind Tree prototype at the Place de la Concorde in Paris in March 2015, a demonstration it says will raise awareness around renewable energy in the city.
With 72 artificial leaves serving as micro-turbines spinning on a vertical axis, the Wind Tree is designed to harness more gentle winds. The developers say this can extend to breezes blowing as slowly as two meters per second, making the turbine useful across more than 280 days of the year. Its power output is calculated at 3.1 kW.
The steel tree stands 11 m (36 ft) tall and measures 8 m (26 ft) in diameter. Operation is said to by completely silent, with all cables and generators integrated into the leaves and branches. New Wind envision that it could either be hooked up to buildings via the main switchboard or connected to the grid with an inverter.
We have seen similar attempts at domesticating wind turbines in the past. In 2011 a team of Dutch designers revealed its Power Flower concept, which would also use vertical-axis turbines. Having already produced prototypes, however, the Wind Tree team does seem little closer to offering a real-world solution.
If it does eventually make it to market, the Wind Tree will be priced at €29,500 (US$36,500). You can see its leaves blow in the video below.