France is not really a country you associate with renewable energy, considering how steadfast the French cling to nuclear power.
Hence I was quite surprised to come across this CNN article about the so-called Arbre à Vent a.k.a. “Wind Tree”, a tree-shaped wind power generator developed by the French company New Wind. The leaves on this “Wind Tree” are actually small wind turbines specifically designed to exploit the air currents in urban environments.
Now traditional wind turbines are not really useful in densely populated areas like cities and suburbs, because they are too big, too noisy and their shadows and light reflections are disruptive. This is also why wind parks are usually erected far from inhabited areas, because human habitation and wind turbines don’t mix.
There have been several attempts to design smaller wind turbines that can operate in densely populated areas and supply a single house or a whole block with wind power. However, most of these plans never got past the prototype stage. Getting a building permit for any kind of wind turbine in a residential area is also nigh impossible.
The French Wind Tree is still at the prototype stage as well. However, it looks more promising than its competitors, because it is not just an innovative idea, but also aesthetically pleasing (in fact, the Wind Tree looks almost like a kinetic sculpture) and – most importantly – it operate nearly silent.
This is certainly a development to watch.