One of the biggest criticisms against wind turbines is that they aren’t usually nice to look at, but that may be about to change thanks to the French company NewWind. Their new device, Tree Vent, is an array of vertical wind turbines that look a lot like a tree.
Though the tree looks like a piece of modern art that would fit in at any urban area, it also provides a very important function. Each tree has a current power output of 3.1 kilowatts, which might not be able to power much on its own. However, using several of the trees together as landscape features in a park or along a roadside would make more of an impact to the homes and buildings nearby.
The trees are 11 meters (36 ft) tall, and 8 meters (26 ft) in diameter at its widest point, which makes it about the same height as many urban trees. The white frame of the tree is made out of steel, and it can hold 72 turbines that sit vertically. This orientation cancels out noise, allowing the turbine to spin silently. Wind turbines are typically very tall in order to reach the altitude where the wind is stronger, but these vertical turbines are able to spin with wind blowing as low as 7 km/h (4.4 mph), making this twice as sensitive as traditional turbines. However, they are durable enough to withstand Category 3 winds, which can reach 178 - 208 km/h (111-129 mph).
Each turbine “sheet,” called an Aeroleaf, is constructed out of lightweight plastic. The plastic has been treated with a resin which protects it from weather conditions such as humidity and salt (for areas close to the sea). The turbines are wired in parallel so that if one stops working for whatever reason, the others will not be affected.
Anxious to check one of these out? NewWind will be testing a tree in Paris’s Place de la Concorde between March 12 and May 12 of this year, allowing the public to see how the turbine functions in a normal setting. About 40 more units are due to be installed around the country in September.
For those wanting a Tree Vent for themselves, you are going to have to wait a bit longer. They aren’t due to go into mass production until the summer of 2016 and will initially only be available in France and other proximal European countries. There is no word on when or if they plan to extend the product into the United States. The approximate price of each tree will be about €29,500 (US$35,000), though that price will hopefully decrease as production becomes less expensive and the technology is further developed.