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.

 
 
 
 

The Fire Brigades Union’s statement on Theresa May’s resignation is completely damning

Grenfell Tower. Image: Getty.

Just after 10 this morning, Theresa May announced that she would resign as Britain’s prime minister on 7 June. A mere half an hour later, a statement from Royal Institute of British Architects president Ben Derbyshire arrived in my inbox with a ping:

“The news that Theresa May will step down as Prime Minister leaves the country in limbo while the clock ticks down to the latest deadline of 31 October. While much is uncertain, one thing remains clear – a no deal is no option for architecture or the wider construction sector. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister must focus on taking the country forward with policies beyond Brexit that tackle the major challenges facing the country such as the housing crisis and climate change emergency.”

I was a bit baffled by this – why would the architecture profession try to get its thoughts into a political story? But then Merlin Fulcher of Architects Journal put me right:

Well you know construction is a larger contributor to GDP than financial services, and most of the work UK architects do is for export, and at least half of the largest practice (Foster + Partners) are EU, so there's a lot at stake

— Merlin Fulcher (@merlinfulcher) May 24, 2019

So, the thoughts of the RIBA president are an entirely legitimate thing to send to any construction sector-adjacent journalists who might be writing about today’s big news, and frankly I felt a little silly.

Someone else who should be feeling more than a little silly, though, is Theresa May herself. When listing her government’s achievements, such as they were, she included, setting up “the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower” – a fire in a West London public housing block in June 2017 – “to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again, and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten”.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, is having precisely none of this. Here’s his statement:

“Many of the underlying issues at Grenfell were due to unsafe conditions that had been allowed to fester under Tory governments and a council for which Theresa May bears ultimate responsibility. The inquiry she launched has kicked scrutiny of corporate and government interests into the long-grass, denying families and survivors justice, while allowing business as usual to continue for the wealthy. For the outgoing Prime Minister to suggest that her awful response to Grenfell is a proud part of her legacy is, frankly, disgraceful.”

A total of 72 people died in the Grenfell fire. At time of writing, nobody has been prosecuted.

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

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