Environment

Power Flowers to domesticate wind turbines

Power Flowers to domesticate w...
Power Flowers could become a common sight in towns and cities
Power Flowers could become a common sight in towns and cities
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Blending in or standing out - perhaps not the best setting for a Power Flowers installation
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Blending in or standing out - perhaps not the best setting for a Power Flowers installation
A supply solution for remote locations too?
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A supply solution for remote locations too?
Blending in or standing out - perhaps not the best setting for a Power Flowers installation
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Blending in or standing out - perhaps not the best setting for a Power Flowers installation
London gets some Power Flowers along the Thames
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London gets some Power Flowers along the Thames
Take the Freeway while Power Flowers make the most of the tailwind
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Take the Freeway while Power Flowers make the most of the tailwind
Power Flowers turbines getting up close and personal with local home-owners
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Power Flowers turbines getting up close and personal with local home-owners
Coming to a street near you - Power Flowers
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Coming to a street near you - Power Flowers
Will park-bound Power Flowers pose a threat to local bird life?
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Will park-bound Power Flowers pose a threat to local bird life?
On the right track for localized power generation
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On the right track for localized power generation
Blending in or standing out - perhaps not the best setting for a Power Flowers installation
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Blending in or standing out - perhaps not the best setting for a Power Flowers installation
Looking like a still from Day of the Triffids - but these flowers are here to help
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Looking like a still from Day of the Triffids - but these flowers are here to help
Power Flowers could become a common sight in towns and cities
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Power Flowers could become a common sight in towns and cities
Diagram showing potential urban distribution
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Diagram showing potential urban distribution
Rendering of a 12 turbine Power Flowers installation
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Rendering of a 12 turbine Power Flowers installation
Rendering of a 12 turbine Power Flowers installation
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Rendering of a 12 turbine Power Flowers installation
Putting some detail to the 12 turbine proposal
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Putting some detail to the 12 turbine proposal
Rendering of a 3 turbine Power Flowers installation
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Rendering of a 3 turbine Power Flowers installation
Rendering of a 3 turbine Power Flowers installation
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Rendering of a 3 turbine Power Flowers installation
Putting some detail to the 3 turbine proposal
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Putting some detail to the 3 turbine proposal
Power Flowers will be constructed with either 3 or 12 turbines springing from the hollow steel branches
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Power Flowers will be constructed with either 3 or 12 turbines springing from the hollow steel branches
Urban Green Energy's power stats for the Eddy vertical-axis turbine
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Urban Green Energy's power stats for the Eddy vertical-axis turbine
The Eddy vertical-axis turbine from Urban Green Energy
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The Eddy vertical-axis turbine from Urban Green Energy
Distribution diagram of current turbines
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Distribution diagram of current turbines
Distribution diagram of current turbines
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Distribution diagram of current turbines
Contemporary Power Flowers setting
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Contemporary Power Flowers setting
A 3 turbine Power Flowers installation
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A 3 turbine Power Flowers installation
A 12 turbine Power Flowers installation
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A 12 turbine Power Flowers installation
Using the three-blade turbine design would not bring the new creations any closer to urban installation
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Using the three-blade turbine design would not bring the new creations any closer to urban installation
View gallery - 28 images

Arguments still rage on, but it's generally accepted that we need to roll out more sustainable power solutions and break away from our reliance on fuels that are going to disappear one day. As advances in solar, wave and wind technologies gather pace, Dutch design house NL Architects has been looking at ways to bring wind turbines closer to where the power they produce is needed, instead of being located on remote hillsides. Inspired by a vertical-axis turbine called Eddy, the team thinks the answer may lie in tree-like creations named Power Flowers.

While most of us will offer strong vocal backing for the construction of wind farms, that can soon change if someone suggests building one nearby. As a result, the tri-blade towers get exiled to the middle of nowhere – or even further away. Instead of having a few high performance giants scattered throughout the land, NL Architects proposes a structure that would bring a few less efficient turbines together and place them closer to the users of the power they generate.

A 12 turbine Power Flowers installation
A 12 turbine Power Flowers installation

Embarking on the project, the designers asked themselves if it was possible to turn windmills into objects of desire. Bringing a few turbines together on a tree-like structure seemed the way to go, offering not-too-unpleasant aesthetics and power generation in one package. Using the familiar three-bladed turbine for such a creation would lead to similar issues as those currently faced by wind farm builders, so the team opted for the less efficient but not so unwieldy vertical-axis turbine instead.

The NL Architects design team has based its creation on an existing turbine created by Urban Green Energy called Eddy. The makers say that Eddy can be assembled in less than an hour, is safe to use in winds up to 120 mph (193 kph) and will last for at least 20 years. The Power Flowers structure would feature a hollow steel column with branches at the top. These branches would be home to either three or 12 Eddy-like turbines and could be deployed closer to, or even within, urban environments such as parks, streets or roadways.

Although vertical-axis turbines are considered less efficient than their tri-bladed bigger brothers, the Power Flowers design would allow for more of them to be packed into locations otherwise unavailable.

Using figures provided by Eddy's manufacturer, the team reckons that a three-turbine Power Flowers structure would generate over 13,000 kWh of power every year at an average wind speed of 5 meters per second and generate as little as 42.8db of noise at 12 meters per second. Each 12-turbine structure's annual power output for the same average wind speed is calculated at 55,000 kWh.

Power Flowers turbines getting up close and personal with local home-owners
Power Flowers turbines getting up close and personal with local home-owners

There are of course unresolved practical and engineering issues to overcome, which would make it very interesting to see if such a structure could actually jump from design software into the real world ... after which, we'd be watching closely for what sort of statistics would actually be produced and how such a thing would be received by the public at large.

Putting all that aside for a moment, would you object to one of these creations appearing outside your bedroom window or in the middle of your local park?

Via Designboom.

View gallery - 28 images
34 comments
Cymon Curcumin
It is hard to say how that level of sound compares with other noises like traffic. They look nice enough though I would not like to see trees sacrificed for these things. Perhaps there are enough spots where trees are not practical due to roots damaging pavement and such. The lower efficiency could be a sensible tradeoff IF the overall economics are still sustainable without government subsidies.
There is also the issue with wind and solar that there is a limit to the amount you can use before fluctuations in supply begin to cause problems for utilities which need to adjust to differences between supply and demand. If you have some sort of distributed power using application that does not need to run constantly or on schedule, this problem would not be as big a limitation.
socalboomer
I would accept one of those near my house. . . depending on how noisy they are. That, honestly, would be my only worry. I think they look cool. . . but if they\'re typically turbine noisy, then no-way.
kar
Wow. I\'m not usually into this stuff, but these actually look pretty cool. Assuming they\'re not too noisy, you get energy plus art. I don\'t feel as bad spending too much money for inefficient energy if I\'m also getting something cool looking.
svengali49
I wouldn\'t mind one in my garden or attached to the side of the house. There are some treeless countries who could use these to break up their dull land masses and become self sufficient. Parts of Turkey, Scotland, the Middle East etc. Mass production could make these very affordable and combined with solar panels could be a huge boon in coming years....and hopefully they could be colourbonded to be green and brown etc
rangle
43dB is about the same as the sound of a bird call...
Facebook User
I wouldn\'t mind these around. Perhaps a more practical approach at first is to combine them with street lights in parks and walking/bike paths. A few smaller ones to introduce the general public to them. Before making them as visually compelling as the above design, just put one of the vertical blades on the top of the lamp post and let it do it\'s job.
Mr T
There are lots of things wrong with this idea. Firstly, there is very little wind resource available in urban areas, especially close to the ground where these would be. I doubt these would ever generate the energy required to make them in such locations, the energy available is simply tiny. We did a study on this, check out the results at http://www.ata.org.au/projects-and-advocacy/domestic-wind-turbines/
Secondly, imagine the levels of maintenance required for such vast numbers of turbines. Each one has a bearing at each end, so that\'s over a dozen bearings per tree. The maintenance would be a full time job for a work crew (or several) and would cost councils considerable money. This is not something any council is going to want to deal with, they want systems that are install and forget. If you want an example of this, think how long it takes your local council to replace the blown bulbs in streetlights.
Thirdly there\'s the safety aspect. These things would be a public liability nightmare. You can imagine all the dickheads throwing things at the turbines trying to break them, or trying to climb the poles for a dare or whatever. The world is full of stupid people, never forget that.
Lastly, there\'s the wildlife safety aspect. These types of turbines spin fast and the rotors are all but invisible. Birds are used to nesting in tree like structures, indeed, it\'s the one place they know they are relatively safe. Can you imagine the casualty rate of birds flying into these things?
Honestly, these are a classic example of yet another designer getting all wrapped up in the idea and not putting any thought into the practical and safety aspects of the design. Something not uncommon with most designers, who are often very \'arty\' people with little or no common sense...
Todd Dunning
More evidence that alternative energy is *all* about appearance. Just a touchy-feely design treatment to a device totally unworkable for perfoming its claimed task. I\'m a design nut myself, but with a boring, stale preference for things that actually work.

What would look better - and actually generate electricity - would be underground cables to a distant nuclear plant. But that\'s so un-hip.
Nhoj Pekowski Ŧ
Exactly right Mr T, these things would slaughter birds. Perhaps if they came with perching branches too it might work?
tmig
I too am a bit concerned about harming the birds, but if that were not an issue they look like they would fit perfectly in the superstore parking lots. They are generally wide open spaces (except for light posts) and often far enough away from residential areas that sound levels would not be an issue. They could dress up an otherwise ugly landscape and provide some utility too.