The Dutch and windmills go together like Americans and mall food courts, so it's not surprising that the city of Rotterdam is planning to build a new one. What may be unexpected is the scope and audacity of the Dutch Windwheel project, a proposed 174-meter (571-foot) tall bladeless steel-and-glass windmill that would be encased by 30,000 square meters of space containing apartments, a panorama restaurant and a hotel, all linked together via a series of rotating cabins. According to architect Duzan Doepel of Doepel Strijkers, the firm designing the project, the idea is to create an icon like the London Eye that will both attract tourists and showcase cutting-edge technology. He expects they may be able to finish the structure within five to six years, and estimates suggests it may attract up to 1.5 million visitors a year.
"What Rotterdam needs is a tourist attraction and the next-generation windmill," says Doepel. "This feeds into the imagination of living in a windmill, a big part of Dutch culture."
The massive structure would generate power via EWICON (Electrostatic Wind Energy Converter) technology. Within the interior of the massive ringed structure would be a set of steel tubes ringed with electrodes, sort of like a tennis racket. Sprayers would then emit charged water particles, and electricity would be generated when the wind pushes these particles past the electrodes. Doepel suggests the technology may only be 20 percent as efficient as standard wind power, but it would also be nearly silent. He sees the tower's construction as a statement about the seriousness of Dutch investment in clean energy tech; Rotterdam alone wants invent 800 million euros in the sector over the next few years, he says.
While engineers are still refining the technology for the Windwheel, Doepel feels positive they can make this next-gen "stealth" windmill work.
"There's really no moving parts," he says "Normally, the issues with wind power are the noise and the shadows, you obviously won't have the noise with this structure."
· In the Netherlands, a Giant Wind Turbine for People to Live On [Popular Science]
· The Dutch Windwheel [official]
· Previous It's Not Easy Being Green coverage [Curbed]