Thursday Salute to Originals: Bendable Electricty

Wind farms have begun to dominate off-shore sites and mountain ridges. In fact, wind power provided 26% of all new U.S. electric capacity last year. Wind turbines do have their drawbacks. Besides killing bats and birds by blade strikes and exploding their lungs with pressure differences, wind turbines can present significant engineering challenges and often mar the landscape. The New York-based design firm Atelier DNA has crafted a solution that avoids much of turbines’ pitfalls and adds a pleasing organic aesthetic.

Called the “Windstalk” concept, this plan entails “planting” 180-foot high stalks that will flow and move with the wind much in the same manner as grasslands. Each carbon-fiber stalk sits in a concrete base and tapers from around twelve inches at the bottom to two inches at the top. Layers of piezoelectric ceramic alternate with layers of electrodes, generating electricity as the stalk bends and sways with the wind. The concrete bases in which the stalks sit also generate power with torque generators using shock absorbing cylinders.

These stalks have a much higher density rating than wind turbines. In fact, closely packed stalks actually help power generation. Wind turbines require a large minimum distance between each other because of turbulence that lowers efficiency and can wear out parts much faster. Windstalks benefit from turbulence because chaotic airflows cause more, and stronger, swaying.

A wind farm using these stalks has already been approved for Masdar City. This ultra-green community outside of Abu Dhabi will feature a 280,000 square foot area packed with Windstalks. Masdar City is home to one of GPI Design’s backlit glass features in its innovative transport system and we eagerly anticipate this revolutionary farm help light it. Also lit will be the top of each individual Windstalk. LED lights on the very tips will vary in brightness depending on wind strength, illuminating the night with beautiful moving points of light.

Amazingly enough, the Windstalk concept also translates well to the aquatic environment. Called Wavestalk (obviously), these underwater electric generators will use waves and currents to power homes and businesses near the shore. Atelier DNA and its founding partner Darío Núñez-Ameni have truly achieved a synergy between human engineering and nature.

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