Windmills: many ways to improve social acceptance

In France, new windmill projects may be hard to implement because of the question of “NIMBY” (not in my back yard) and more generally, because of social acceptance. What solutions are available to overcome this issue in order to increase the percentage of renewable energy and break away from our reliance on fuels?

First: Work on Design

In 2011, Dutch architects came up with the idea of turning windmills into objects of desire. So, they created the concept of ‘Power Flower’ based on existing technology. Named Eddy, it uses a vertical-axis turbine and should last for at least 20 years. This new version’s elegant look will improve social acceptance by fitting in with the landscape. With either 3 or 12 turbines, these domesticated wind turbines can be deployed closer to, or within, urban environments such as parks, streets or roadways. Even though this system produces less energy, it is closer to the users and so it loses less energy due to Joule heating in transit to the consumer. To conclude, three turbine structures would be expected to generate over 13 MWh of energy every year from an average wind speed of 5 m/s.

A few years later, a French start-up Newwind designed a ‘WindTree’ made of 63 artificial leaves. Also called aeroleaf,it  uses micro-turbine technology. This system enables the harnessing of gentle winds as low as 2 m/s, so it’s estimated average production is around 2,4 kWh. The WindTree is 10m high and 8m wide. Compared to traditional windmills, this Wind tree doesn’t generate sound pollution. Moreover it can be installed close to buildings in order to reduce line loss. From an esthetical point of view, all the technology is hidden inside the tree. Even better, this distinctive design may arouse interest and curiosity leading to appropriation. This domestic windmill has been installed in the Cité des Télécoms in Bretagne since 2014. On the one hand, it is included in the educational program in order to bring together nature and technology. On the other hand, this WindTree contributes to the supply of electricity to the Parc du Radôme.


Secondly: Set up Cheap Domestic Windmills

A windmill in kit form can now be bought online for 30 $.  This low cost windmill is made with recycled materials and generates 1kWh from a 60km/h wind. This vertical-axis windmill has either 3 or 6 vanes according to the model. The creator put together an online tutorial with 52 steps to self-assemble the windmill. According to him, it takes 6 hours to assemble a tandem windmill. This open source innovation was highlighted during an innovation convention (POC 21) in France in August 2015. The aim of this gathering near Paris was to prototype a fossil-fuel free society.

Third step: Innovation

In the United States, a company named Sheerwind designed a new shape of windmill in order to lessen the impact on birds, reduce operating costs and also tap almost all of the wind’s intensity starting from as low as 1,6 km/h. At Texas University, researchers created a 1,8 mm windmill that can generate enough electricity to charge a cellphone in just a few minutes.

In a short time span, ideas on windmills have spread out to integrate renewable energy in many ways. This is achieved not only by technology but also design, not to mention the shared economy involved in such projects.





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