A French start-up says its Wind Tree is ideal for urban environments, harnessing the most gentle of winds to produce power through its micro-turbine leaves. Suzannah Butcher reports.
Next time you are sitting in a city park - you might find yourself surrounded by some unusual trees. The Wind Tree is made up of a steel trunk and mini-turbine plastic leaves - and it's designed to harness energy from even the slightest of breezes. French startup NewWind says its silent, but powerful windmill should appeal to those opposed to the noise and size of more traditional wind turbines. And founder Jerome Michaud-Lariviere says it works even when there's hardly any wind at all. SOUNDBITE (French) NEWWIND FOUNDER, JEROME MICHAUD-LARIVIERE, SAYING: "The main advantage of our technology is that it works with a very small input of energy and turbulent energy. So it will work with two metres per second of wind whereas other machines need four or five metres per second of wind to get going, and this means that we can produce energy over more days in the year." At around 11 metres tall, the Wind Tree is designed to fit into the urban environment - and Parisians will be able to see it for themselves when a prototype is installed at the Place de la Concorde on the Champs-Elysee next March. The trees are expected to cost around 37,000 US dollars each, but NewWind says they should pay for themselves within two years. The company hopes to start mass production by early 2016.