By Mayukh Saha
We all think of wind turbines as gigantic, loud contraptions dotting some far-off stretch of empty land. But the founder and CEO of NewWind, Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, is here to change that mindset. One day, when he was sitting in a square, he saw leaves trembling even though he couldn’t feel any breeze blowing. This inspired him to create a biomimetic wind turbine in the shape of a tree which could gather the energy that would have otherwise literally floated away in the air.
Larivière had so much conviction in his idea that he left behind his job in the film industry and spent the next three and a half years working with a team of engineers to create his ‘Arbre à Vent’. Specifically designed to look aesthetically pleasing and to work efficiently but quietly, this tree’s leaf has been named the ‘Aeroleaf’ and it is actually a micro-turbine containing a micro-processor to harvest as much energy as possible from whatever breeze is blowing. They’re placed in a seemingly chaotic manner but this is done to ensure that they harvest energy from all directions. The tree’s external design came from Claudio Colucci.
Each tree is eight to ten meters tall and has 63 aeroleaves attached to it. Even with winds blowing as slowly as 4.5 mph and no matter which direction they’re blowing from, these leaves can harvest the energy required and convert that into electricity. Winds at such a slow speed are actually in the category of light breeze according to the Beaufort Scale and the conventional wind turbines cannot access them at all.
By making good use of the hitherto forgotten tiny air currents that flow within urban spaces, Larivière is hopeful that his invention will one day be placed in the yards of many houses and in urban gardens. Each tree has a capacity of 4.1 kW and it is supposed to be able to light up a 1500 ft stretch of road and can even make up over eighty percent of the electricity that a family uses if you don’t include the power required for heating. It can also turn up a profit if the winds blow at an average speed of 7.8 mph for a period of a year. A centrifugal brake is also built into the tree to ensure that it does not deteriorate even when there are strong air currents. They can be used for more than a dozen years
There is no denying that it is important to harvest energy in a sustainable manner in the city spaces where the most number of people are concentrated. However, at the moment each tree costs around $33,670 but NewWind is trying to create less expensive products, using smaller plants for inspiration. They are even considering using Aeroleaf to harvest solar as well as wind energy.
Even though it is not yet perfect, Larivière has provided a beautiful and elegant, yet still whimsical, product that furthers us in the journey towards sustainable energy.
Video Credit: Mashable Deals