Naturally Inspired By the Wind
24 Nov 2010
Prize winner in the Land Art Generator Competition earlier this year was a new concept design that could make wind power more attractive
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Taking its inspiration from the way the wind sways a field of wheat the Masdar Windstalk, a concept art design for a wind Generator, may hold solutions for some of the objections that confront conventional turbines. Atelier a New York design laboratory have put on their thinking caps to address the issues of noise, environment and aesthetics. Their ideas all based on proven technologies, gained them a respectable second prize in the Land Art Generator Competition earlier this year.
A small team comprising an artist a structural engineer and an ecology and renewable energy specialist have come up with a design that is revolutionary in that it escapes from the principles of a rotational turbine. Yet they aim to ensure that if their concept becomes a reality their Land Art Generator will have the same electrical output as current wind-farm covering the same area.
Artist Gabrielle Jesiolowski envisioned a field of super-sized reeds that sway naturally in the breeze that can form attractive parkland. The environment can be planted with small shrubs combining the natural with the surreal. At the top of each stem is a LED which lights up when the frond is generating power making it as appealing a night as is is during the day.
Radhi Majmudar the project engineer had to find suitable materials and inventive ways of getting the giant grass-like structure to generate electricity while colleague Ian Lipsky helped with his knowledge on ecology issues and renewable energy solutions.
To give an idea os the scale the project proposes having over twelve hundred stalks standing 55 meters high each of which can move freely and randomly in the wind. Each would be a collector of kinetic energy. The poles have to be flexible and strong so a reinforced carbon-fiber resin is proposed. Each stem will be around 30cm diameter at the base reducing to 5cm at the top tapering just as a natural reed would and allowing it to move in the same way.
The stalks are anchored at the base in a vortex shaped mounting that contains much of the technology to gather the energy from the movement above. They are positioned in a spiral pattern just like the seeds in a sunflower head, ground mountings touch each other and form a carpet. Care has been taken to ensure that each of the ground mountings will vary in shape so that different areas will gather rainwater and others will be drier. This will allow for a variety of different plants to flourish at the base of the stems creating a varied and natural environment.
Within the base of the structures there are a series of torque generators effectively a series of fluid filled shock absorbers fanning out from the base of the pole. Energy is generated when the fluid inside the shock absorber cylinder is compressed and this is converted to electricity.
Initially it might be hard to see how this can generate enough electricity especially when the wind drops. In response the team came up with yet another inventive concept — Effectively they have built in a natural kind of battery or capacitor. This is unlike any other energy storage used in current power plants. Below the field are two layers of chambers covering an area as large as the site itself. Forming a series cones and inverted cone shaped chambers it has distinct upper and lower sections, similar in shape. When the wind blows, part of the electricity generated powers a set of pumps that move water from the lower chambers to the upper ones. When there is no wind the water from the upper chamber flows down again turning the pumping mechanism into a generator as the water flows back through it. The beauty of this storage devise is that all it uses to store power is water, gravity and a small portion of the electricity generated by the field itself.
If this concept comes to fruition it could change the entire face of large-scale wind generating business. The team have covered creating eco-envrionments, an artistic visitor attraction and a wind powered generating system that is quiet, and has less moving parts that will undoubtedly mean less money spent on maintenance. They hope that if anyone is foresighted enough to build it their design will rival the output of any current existing wind turbine plant.
Image courtesy of Masdar Windstalk
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