Until now, only windmill was an option for generating electricity. A team of French engineers have change that. They have developed an artificial tree that is able to generate electricity from wind power. ‘The idea came to me in a square where I saw the leaves tremble when there was not a breath of air,’ said Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, the founder of the Parisian start-up which will market the Wind Tree in 2015. He added the energy ‘had to come from somewhere and be translatable into watts’. It uses tiny blades housed in the ‘leaves’ that turn in the wind - regardless of its direction - and has the added advantage of being completely silent.
After three years of research, the team of engineers developed a 26ft prototype, which is now installed in the Pleumeur-Bodou commune in Brittany in northwestern France. He hopes they can eventually be used in people’s own homes and in urban centers. The tree, which will sell for £23,500, can reportedly generate electricity on twice the number of days as a conventional wind turbine because it can generate power on winds of just 4.5mph. Mr Michaud-Lariviere said the tree - which has not yet been tested by an independent laboratory - is profitable after winds of 7.8mph on average over one year. He hopes the tree can be used to exploit small ‘deposits’ of air currents flowing into town along the buildings and streets to feed, for example, LED street lamps, or a charging station for electrical cars.
He admits there are more consistent winds 160ft in the air but they require ‘monstrous machines’, far from where energy is consumed, he added. He hopes the tree can be combined with other means of power generation such as photovoltaic, and geothermal, combined with energy-efficient buildings. In the future Mr Michaud-Larivière hopes to develop a ‘perfect tree that has leaves with natural fibers, roots that could generate geothermal energy and ‘bark’ covered with photosensitive cells. However, Robert Bellini an engineering expert at the Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), says the potential of small wind turbines in the city remains ‘quite low’.