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Urban ‘Wind Trees’ generate electricity from breezes

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A micro wind turbine that can work in the city

Wind Trees created by the French company New Wind.
Courtesy of New Wind

Conventional wind turbines have been criticized as ugly, large, and often so noisy they are too obtrusive for backyards.

But French firm New Wind wants to change that with the ‘Wind Tree,’ a 26-foot-tall tree fitted with 63 tiny blades that can generate electricity.

Called aeroleaves, the tree’s leaf-like blades—essentially micro wind turbines—work at speeds as low as 4.5 miles per hour (mph), regardless of the wind’s direction. They are also silent, so they could theoretically be installed along buildings, streets, or even in people’s backyards.

Each tree ranges from $20,000 to $50,000 depending on the model, and it can generate approximately 3,500 Kilowatt hours (kWh) to 13,500 kWh annually. New Wind breaks this down as the ability to power 15 street lamps, 83 percent of the electrical consumption of a typical family household, or one electrical car for 10,168 miles in a year.

New Wind’s CEO Jérôme Michaud-Larivière says the tree is profitable after winds of 7.8 mph on average over one year. But he believes that micro wind turbines could be key to making urban environments more sustainable. The goal of each tree is to generate electricity that’s used by nearby infrastructure or services.

Michaud-Larivière argues, “Our concept of renewable energy production and on-site consumption is integrating silence, design and a harmonious connection to nature to develop better cities.” New Wind is also developing other aeroleaf colors, other types of tree barks, and different branches, flowers, and bushes.

The first Wind Tree prototypes were created in 2013 and installed in Paris in 2015 and in the Pleumeur-Bodou commune in Brittany in northwestern France soon after. The Wind Tree is also now available for commercial sale.