It is always uplifting when science is both gee-wiz-wow cool and beautiful. One such invention is the Wind Tree–a clever use of turbines and art that may make it possible for people to run their own homes off these decorative devices.
Man-made “wind trees” will finally make
it possible to power homes using turbines
Picture a steady breeze blowing through the leaves of a tree. Now imagine these leaves could do more than simply churn in the current of air—what if they could capture the wind and transform it into renewable energy?
Energy from wind is the fastest-growing source of electricity in the world, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental and social research institution. This development of wind power has mostly taken place on a large scale, usually by utility companies providing power to a grid of millions of customers. That’s because wind energy is most efficient when it’s capturing very strong winds, more common in remote areas and at heights greater than 50 feet off the ground. Those turbines need to be as tall as a five-story building, and they take up a lot of horizontal room, too—several hundred feet per turbine, in many cases. They also require more maintenance than solar panels.
All of these factors make it challenging to capture wind energy in small amounts. But that hasn’t stopped companies from experimenting in the hopes of one day allowing individual homeowners to capture energy from their own backyards or balconies, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
Last December, two “wind trees”—or arbres à vent—quietly churned in a plaza in Paris, as world leaders met for the historic climate talks at the Le Bourget conference center nearby. Developed by a French company called New Wind, the “trees” had plastic “leaves” painted green, with curves that held dozens of tiny blades soundlessly harnessing the wind no matter which way it blew. Unlike larger industrial turbines, which need winds of over 22 miles per hour to function, the leaves captured energy from wind speeds of less than five mph.