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Wind Turbine Trees Generate Renewable Energy for Urban Settings

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You've most likely heard one of the arguments leveled at wind power: turbines are ugly. And while you might not agree, it's true that the tall turbines that are increasingly appearing all over the landscape stand out among their surroundings.

Power-generating "wind trees" are designed to blend into both urban and rural environments. Photo credit: New Wind

French entrepreneur Jérôme Michaud-Larivière decided to do something about that. His company New Wind has created the "Arbre à Vent" or "wind tree," to tackle the issue of what they refer to as "an environment marred by machines that are too big, too noisy and quite unsightly."

The 26 x 36 foot tree features 72 "leaves" that act as miniature silent turbines with integrated generators, each producing a small amount of electrical power. Because the leaves are small and light, they are set in motion by winds as light as 4.4 miles per hour, capturing light winds that large vertical turbines can't and potentially producing power as many as 280 days a year. And while each tree produces only 3.1 kilowatts of power, a streetscape lined with them could power all the nearby streetlights or a small apartment building.

"Making use of the slightest breeze, the Arbre à Vent is able to exploit all types of wind, in a 360 degree radius—turbulences, vortexes, drays and other wind phenomena found in urban and rural environments," says the company. "The Arbre à Vent is part of the energy harvesting movement, and powerful enough to ensure the electrical autonomy of a family of four."

The trees are designed and constructed to be durable, reliable and lasting in a variety of outdoor conditions. The generators connected to the leaves are sealed in protective casing, and the unit is designed so that if one leaf breaks down, the others will still function.

The trees won't fool anyone into thinking they are real but they could easily pass as a piece of outdoor sculpture.

"The biomorphically inspired Arbre à Vent, your own personal windmill, is a truly eco-friendly solution—no more line drops, no more energy carrying costs, an extremely low carbon footprint, virtually invisible technology and completely silent operation," the company boasts. "The distinctive yet human-scale design promises to reconcile the consumer with his means of generating electricity."

Prototypes have been installed on several private properties, with a demonstrator tree to be installed in Paris on the Place de la Concorde this coming May. They're expected to cost about $36,500 a piece.

Also on the drawing board is "foliage" that can be installed on rooftops and balconies and along roadsides to power variable-message signs. A scaled-down "wind bush" is also in the works.

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