Tuesday, May 21, 2024

This nature-inspired ‘Wind Tree’ reinvents wind power

As the demand for clean energy grows, so does the creativity of eco-entrepreneurs who are developing new ways to harness renewable sources of power in our homes.

One of these innovations is a micro wind turbine that mimics the shape and movement of a tree, addressing some of the challenges that come with using renewable energy sources. Developed by a French startup, New World Wind, these “Wind Trees” have multicolored green “Aeroleafs” on their branches, which are small, vertical-axis wind turbines.

According to a data sheet, the Wind Tree is a steel structure (trunk and branches) that stands 9.8 meters high (about 32 feet) and 7.2 meters wide (23.6 feet) on which 36 Aeroleafs are installed. Each Aeroleaf is about 3 feet high and consists of a double blade with a vertical axis shaped like a leaf and a synchronous micro-generator with permanent magnets. These parts generate alternating current, which is then rectified into direct current.

Each Tree has an installed capacity of 10,800 watts (a nominal power of 5,868 watts), or 300 watts per Aeroleaf, with a total of 36 leaves.

The WindTree is a steel structure (trunk and branches) on which 36 Aeroleaf are installed.
The WindTree is a steel structure (trunk and branches) on which 36 Aeroleaf are installed. Credit: New World Wind

The trees are designed to be compact, which makes them easy to install in urban areas without requiring significant engineering work. After a turbine is put in place, it only takes a single bracket and three bolts to complete the construction process. Their smaller size also helps to avoid some of the issues faced by larger turbines, such as bird collisions.

Additionally, the rotation of Aeroleaf generates no noise due to their direct drive mechanism, without belt or gear, which is particularly adapted to capture the weakest and most turbulent winds.

New World Wind has also developed a high-performance photovoltaic petal to add a second source of green energy to the Aeroleaf. At the bottom of every leaf, you can see small solar panels that are attached to the petal. These panels help capture sunlight, enabling Aeroleaf Hybrid technology to produce consistent energy in two modes.

The design of the Aeroleaf Hybrid draws inspiration from nature, which sets it apart from traditional wind turbines and solar panel platforms. The tree-shaped energy generator is designed to blend seamlessly into the green and urban landscape as if it were planted there in the first place and grew on its own.

The WInd Tree fits perfectly into urban and natural landscapes.
The WInd Tree fits perfectly into urban and natural landscapes. Credit: New World Wind

The Aeroleaf can be easily mounted on any surface, such as a rooftop, a balcony, or a pole, and can capture even the slightest breeze and provide sustainable, green electricity.

New World Wind has three design features that can include or remove the attached solar panels, making it a versatile technology. The combination of a standard Aeroleaf and a solar petal allows it to generate electricity from both wind and solar sources, thus increasing its output and efficiency. The design of the blade and the panel is optimized to perform well under low wind and light conditions.

To coordinate with the colors of your company or your street furniture, the Aéroleaf sheets take on different colors. You can also choose the color of the trunks and branches of your Tree. Many options are also available to meet the needs of the inhabitants of your municipality or visitors to your business. LED lamps make it possible to visualize the silhouette of the Tree and to illuminate the surrounding space. It is also possible to add charging terminals, depolluting sheets, or USB benches.

The company plans to release a new design in January 2024 that aims to triple the power output of the Aeroleaf. This new design will enable one leaf to produce up to 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, which would give the 36-leaf WindTree a maximum annual output of 36,000 kWh at a wind speed of 12 meters per second (m/s).

However, wind conditions are unlikely to be consistently high throughout the year, so in regular conditions of 8 m/s, one WindTree can generate almost 18,000 kWh per year, which is enough to power a four-person household. This could potentially reduce a home’s annual CO2 emissions by over 12 tonnes.

These turbines can provide energy seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and any surplus energy can be stored in batteries with a capacity of 60Ah, equivalent to approximately 45 minutes to one hour under normal conditions. Each Tree is equipped with four batteries.

So far, the company has installed 130 units around the globe, spanning regions from Europe and the United States to South Korea.