Like Awesome-Looking Giant Blades of GrassWind turbines are probably here to stay. Over time they'll become more efficient by moving offshore, where the wind blows stronger and more constantly, and by becoming bigger and more sophisticated (special blade shapes, lighter materials, better internal components in the nacelle, etc). But the general principle of using rotating blades to capture the kinetic energy of the wind and convert it into clean electricity probably won't change too much... But that doesn't mean that there isn't other ways to harness the power of the wind!
We've covered vertical wind turbines and all kinds of special kites that either move ships or generate electricity, but I don't think we've seen many wind power concepts that are based on giant stalks that just oscillate in the wind.
The Windstalk concept was created by a New York design firm called Atelier DNA. Our colleagues at Discovery News explain: "The designers came up with the idea for the planned city Masdar, a 2.3-square-mile, automobile-free area being built outside of Abu Dhabi. Atelier DNA’s “Windstalk” project came in second in the Land Art Generator competition a contest sponsored by Madsar to identify the best work of art that generates renewable energy from a pool of international submissions."
Windstalk SpecificationsThe project as submitted to Madsar includes 1203 stalks that are 180 feet high (55 meters) and are anchored on the ground with concrete bases that range between 10 to 20 meters in diameter. They are made from carbon fiber reinforced resin poles, about a foot (30 cm) in diameter at the base and 2 inches (5 cm) at the top. There are LED lights at the top of the stalks, and their intensity varies with the force of the wind. If there's no wind, there's no light.
How does it generate electricity? The creators explain: "Within each hollow pole is a stack of piezoelectric ceramic discs. Between the ceramic disks are electrodes. Every other electrode is connected to each other by a cable that reaches from top to bottom of each pole. One cable connects the even electrodes, and another cable connects the odd ones. When the wind sways the poles, the stack of piezoelectric disks is forced into compression, thus generating a current through the electrodes. Within each concrete base is a hollow chamber that houses a torque generator. The generator converts the kinetic energy of the swaying poles into electrical energy by way of an array of current generating shock absorbers, which convert energy produced by the forced movement of fluid through the shock absorber cylinders.
To smooth out the power delivery, underground chambers and pumped hydro provide a way to store energy.
It's a very interesting concept. I doubt that it would be very affordable, especially compared to the more traditional wind turbines that are produced in large enough numbers to benefit from economies of scale, but it's very good to explore alternatives. I'd love to see some small-scale tests done to see how much power this could generate.
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