Wind Trees: the future of urban wind energy?

Sep 29, 2016 | written by:

If someone told you that in Paris, in Place de la Concorde, there is a tall tree 8 meters with about 100 leaves that can produce up to 3.5 kwh of electricity? You better believe it.

It's called Arbre à vent, or Wind Tree, and it is a tree with mini-wind turbines instead of the leaves: it has a steel trunk and fronds composed by mini-generators with lubricating bearings which can rotate 360 ​​degrees. This tree exploits exposure to windy currents, characteristic of some parts of urban centers, and it represents a remarkable revolution in the field of small-scale plants for the production of renewable energy in cities.

Jérôme Michaud-Lariviè, Wind Tree inventor and founder of the start-up New Wind, had the idea in 2011, while sitting in a square of the French capital; the attention captured by the movement of the fronds and an intuition: an artificial tree camouflaged with the environment that can generate clean electrical energy.

Installed in 2014 in Place de la Concorde and monitored throughout the following year, the Arbre à Vent test is able to produce 3500 kWh to 13500 kWh depending on various wind speed conditions. The creators have summed up the strengths of the particular wind turbine in four points: reliable, simple, efficient and modular. You can add to this list that is more aesthetically pleasing of the classic wind turbines and that it works with all types of wind, independently from their direction and with a threshold of very low departure, around 2 meters per second of speed.

Eddies and drafts are a typical phenomenon of urban areas and are caused by th alternation in the arrangement of buildings and open spaces: the installation of the Wind Tree allows you to exploit their potential for about 200 days a year and meet a part of the needs of the inhabitants of neighboring areas.

After Paris, other French cities will install the Arbre à Vent in the coming months. Even more exciting prospects for 2017: on the one hand, Geneva will be the first city to surrender to the charms of the turbine-leaves outside of France, on the other the New Wind will start production of wind trees in larger sizes, suitable for more extended metropolitan centers, that are ambitious to become smart city. Still a lot of work to do in the economic field: to date a single plant will cost between 20.000 and 40.000 €. A not exactly low price.

It seems that, after the windmills, Europe is returning to know the potential of a wind on a human scale.

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