Trees for the Wind

Written by Colton Lowry, ESLLC 2015-2016

Wind energy is a rapidly growing part of renewable energy in the United States. But, not everyone is happy with the current mechanisms used to capture wind energy. The typical wind turbine has a bad rep that is caused by the constant hum of the machine, the visual appearance of the turbines, and the deaths of bats and migratory birds as they fly through giant wind farms.

Throughout recent years’ people have started to experiment with the idea of vertical axis wind turbines instead of the typical horizontal axis turbines. Vertical axis turbines are found to be mesmerizing, peaceful, and relaxing to watch when compared to horizontal turbines. Specifically, when in close quarters, no one wants a giant blade swooping right in front of them as they walk through a city park. This has caused for the development of “wind trees” which are wind vertical axis turbines disguised as modernistic tree sculptures.

The wind trees are designed for lower wind areas and only need 4.4 mph winds. This means that these can be placed in more areas than the typical wind turbine. Also, they are much smaller than the typical wind turbine. They are only 8 meters in diameter and 11 meters in height. This means you could easily place them in your local park when compared to the normal 328 foot tall turbine. Studies around major cities show that the surrounding suburbs are often great places for these wind trees. In the open they receive too much wind and in the city the wind supply is inconsistent due to taller buildings placed more closely together. Therefore, the suburbs are the best option.

As far as public perception of these wind trees, people are actually attracted to them. There was a study executed where a small wind turbine was placed in a parking lot and most drivers tried to park as far away from it as possible. However, when the wind tree was placed in the parking lot a few days later the cars tended to park directly underneath it and around it.

Some may say that the most important part of a wind powered tree is how much electricity it produces and at what cost. Unfortunately, one wind tree costs $33,379 and produces 13,500 kWh per year. This is enough to power 2.4 homes a year. In the United States the average price of one kWh of electricity is $0.12 and this adds up to $1620 a year. This means that it would take 20 years in order to make back your money on the wind tree. But, after that you receive free electricity. Along with that, there is always the possibility of splitting the price since the tree produces enough electricity to power 2.4 homes.

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