Wind turbines are great. They make energy out of wind, and they don't release any nasty greenhouse gases in the process. But, as NIMBYs are keen to tell you if you so much as hint that a wind turbine could darken their skyline, they have their downsides, too. They're big, they're noisy, and their giant choppers can kill birds (so can climate change, but that's a debate for another day). That makes them a difficult sell anywhere except farmland or coastal areas.
So some designers have come up with a new version of the technology that'd bring turbines into towns and cities. The French entrepreneur Jérôme Michaud-Larivière and his company, New Wind, have created something called the “Arbre à Vent” (wind tree). It's a tree-shaped structure, covered in leaf-shaped miniturbines. Here's one now:
The trees are 36 feet high, and the turbine leaves are actually bigger than they look. Here's their creator Michaud-Larivière (by all accounts, a standard-sized man) holding one:
While the turbines themselves are much smaller than those on a large windmill, they actually pick up small breezes that wouldn't shift larger blades, so have the potential to produce a steadier flow of energy. Each tree produces 3.1 kilowatts of power, which isn't a huge amount, but they could be used to power street lighting or several could be used to power a nearby building.
This video from New Wind shows the tree in action. It also confirms that it's not very loud:
The first model is due to be tested in a Paris public square from May this year. Apparently New Wind are also looking into "wind foliage" and "wind bushes". It remains to be seen whether the invention's natural apperance will be enough to trick wind the turbine haters, though.