Windstalks: an aesthetic alternative to turbines

Sensemaking / Windstalks: an aesthetic alternative to turbines

27 Jan 2011

Clusters of swaying resin stalks could overcome public hostility to wind farms

With wind farms’ potential constrained by public opposition and a hostile media, there’s a premium on designs which might prove more aesthetically acceptable.

Cue the Windstalk, a new concept developed by New York design firm Atelier DNA. Rather than using huge blades to sweep the wind from the sky, the 55-metre resin stalks, reinforced with carbon fibre, are made up of a series of ceramic disks and electrodes connected by a single central cable. When the stalk sways in the wind, the disks are compressed together, creating a charge in adjacent electrodes. Effectively, it works on piezoelectric (kinetic energy) principles: converting motion into power (see 'Kinetic energy converters step up').

The resulting current is collected by the cable and stored in two batteries at the base of the stalks. Atelier DNA claim that the total electricity output of a Windstalk array could equal that of a traditional turbine farm, largely because the stalks can be much more densely situated.

WindstalkStalking the wind

The design won second place in the Land Art Generator Initiative, which awards installations which combine artistic merit with large scale clean energy generation. Although it’s at present just a concept, the Windstalk has already been earmarked for Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste metropolis (see 'How to make a city flow'). The $20 billion dollar project’s first phase is due to be completed by 2015, with 1,203 Windstalks tasked with feeding 20MW into the grid.

While Windstalk technology may be affordable to the deep pockets of the Middle East, cost is likely to be a limiting factor elsewhere – at least until it’s proven technology. Nonetheless, as Mike Cheshire, spokesperson for green energy supplier Ecotricity, says: “Cost is always going to be a factor when building any source of energy, but the price of fossil fuels can only keep going up, and Finland and France are demonstrating the spiralling costs of building new nuclear plants.”

- Sam Jones

Image credits: Dario Nunez Ameni

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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