Wind Turbine Trees

Photo of wind turbine against trees and sky

For both parks and concessions, moving away from fossil fuels is key to maintaining park health and functioning sustainably. We hear about solar, hydropower, wind power or biodiesel on a seemingly regular basis. We also hear associated complaints—that these alternatives are eyesores, and that they invade the “natural” and ‘pristine” parks in which they are installed, that they harm wildlife, and that they are loud. Wind turbines in particular are denigrated for causing noise pollution and obstructing bird flight patterns. Additionally, there have been many reported deaths of both birds and bats due to collision with wind turbines or loss of habitat due to wind installation.1 These harmful side effects have stalled some wind power projects, thereby reducing the alternative energy options available to us. Luckily, designers and researchers have come up with “turbine trees,” an artistic solution to alternative energy that incorporates wind power without the undesirable side effects.

Created by French entrepreneur Jérôme Michaud-Larivière and the company NewWind, these turbine trees are 26 feet tall, and feature 72 artificial leaves that operate as miniature vertical turbines rotating around the tree ‘trunk’ base. When the wind blows, the turbine ‘leaves’ rotate and quietly produce energy. The unpleasant hardware (cables, generators) is integrated into the leaves themselves, as well as the “branches.” The current design has a power output of 3.1 kilowatts, which alone is not a large capacity for energy generation; however, a street lined with wind trees could power city street lamps, or help to offset grid power consumption nearby. Further, the structure is not limited to trees. The technology can be affixed to garden fences, balconies, or other suitable structures, expanding the possibilities of where wind power is installed.2

Not only are the trees aesthetically pleasing, they offer many benefits to traditional wind turbines. Currently, traditional wind turbines are about 200 feet high, whereas the turbine trees are only 36 feet tall. This reduces risk to birds, and means less obstructed views for park visitors. Further, these trees operate quietly, one of the most prevalent complaints of wind turbines today is the noise they produce.3 Though these turbine trees are not yet available for commercial use, concessioners should keep an eye out for more information. NewWind will be installing (or ‘planting’) one on May 12, 2015, at the Place de la Concorde in Paris as a public demonstration. Adding more wind power to the solar, biodiesel, biomass and natural gas alternatives already being used in concessions operations means moving farther away from fossil fuels, and toward a more sustainable future.