These "wind trees" could generate green energy in cities

Image: Getty

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.

Images: Getty.

 
 
 
 

These maps of petition signatories show which bits of the country are most enthusiastic about scrapping Brexit

The Scottish bit. Image: UK Parliament.

As anyone in the UK who has been near an internet connection today will no doubt know, there’s a petition on Parliament’s website doing the rounds. It rejects Theresa May’s claim – inevitably, and tediously, repeated again last night – that Brexit is the will of the people, and calls on the government to end the current crisis by revoking Article 50. At time of writing it’s had 1,068,554 signatures, but by the time you read this it will definitely have had quite a lot more.

It is depressingly unlikely to do what it sets out to do, of course: the Prime Minister is not in listening mode, and Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom has already been seen snarking that as soon as it gets 17.4m votes, the same number that voted Leave in 2016, the government will be sure to give it due care and attention.

So let’s not worry about whether or not the petition will be successful and instead look at some maps.

This one shows the proportion of voters in each constituency who have so far signed the petition: darker colours means higher percentages. The darkest constituencies tend to be smaller, because they’re urban areas with a higher population density.

And it’s clear the petition is most popular in, well, exactly the sort of constituencies that voted for Remain three years ago: Cambridge (5.1 per cent), Bristol West (5.6 per cent), Brighton Pavilion (5.7 per cent) and so on. Hilariously, Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North is also at 5.1 per cent, the highest in London, despite its MP clearly having remarkably little interest in revoking article 50.

By the same token, the sort of constituencies that aren’t signing this thing are – sit down, this may come as a shock – the sort of places that tended to vote Leave in 2016. Staying with the London area, the constituencies of the Essex fringe (Ilford South, Hornchurch & Upminster, Romford) are struggling to break 1 per cent, and some (Dagenham & Rainham) have yet to manage half that. You can see similar figures out west by Heathrow.

And you can see the same pattern in the rest of the country too: urban and university constituencies signing in droves, suburban and town ones not bothering. The only surprise here is that rural ones generally seem to be somewhere in between.

The blue bit means my mouse was hovering over that constituency when I did the screenshot, but I can’t be arsed to redo.

One odd exception to this pattern is the West Midlands, where even in the urban core nobody seems that bothered. No idea, frankly, but interesting, in its way:

Late last year another Brexit-based petition took off, this one in favour of No Deal. It’s still going, at time of writing, albeit only a third the size of the Revoke Article 50 one and growing much more slowly.

So how does that look on the map? Like this:

Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit of an inversion of the new one: No Deal is most popular in suburban and rural constituencies, while urban and university seats don’t much fancy it. You can see that most clearly by zooming in on London again:

Those outer east London constituencies in which people don’t want to revoke Article 50? They are, comparatively speaking, mad for No Deal Brexit.

The word “comparatively” is important here: far fewer people have signed the No Deal one, so even in those Brexit-y Essex fringe constituencies, the actual number of people signing it is pretty similar the number saying Revoke. But nonetheless, what these two maps suggest to me is that the new political geography revealed by the referendum is still largely with us.


In the 20 minutes it’s taken me to write this, the number of signatures on the Revoke Article 50 has risen to 1,088,822, by the way. Will of the people my arse.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.