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Wind energy innovation inspired by nature

The innovators of the world do not seem to tire of coming up with new wind turbine designs. Recently we’ve had vertical axis models, an Archimedes’ screw and more. Now, say hello to the ‘wind tree’ - or Tree Wind, to give it its official title.

A steel trunk and branches support plastic ‘leaves’ which are said to be highly responsive to even low wind speeds. An appealing look is combined with a certain audio appeal - silent generation of power. The idea is the brainchild of Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, who in turn credits nature’s influence:

"On a windless day I watched the leaves driven by an invisible force that moved by indeed the slightest air simmer. I wondered how many watts it could do. And if we collected the energy of the earthquake on the basis of the phenomenon. Multiplied by as many sheets as a tree has, what power would give? The Wind Tree was born."

Such inventions are often cited as challengers to the established technological orthodoxy - and in this case, there have been the inevitable suggestions that Tree Wind could threaten the sometimes-controversial horizontal axis ‘propeller’ wind turbines widely used at present. But it’s difficult to imagine you’re going to see economies of scale to generate significant portions of grid energy using the technology any time soon; especially given a per-tree cost of £23,000.

In reality, the design looks more like it an aesthetically-pleasing addition to urban energy generation rather than some kind of catch-all energy solution. But if interesting and visually-stimulating designs can be combined with high efficiency, there’s a possibility that more out-there ideas like this one could provide useful additions to the spaces we live and work. 

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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