|John Vidal, environment editor
Friday June 2, 2006
Wind turbines are tall white objects with three long blades and they sit on hilltops spinning around to generate electricity, right? Wrong. In the first radical redesign of the turbine for many years, a small engineering firm has linked up with aerospace designers to devise a wind generator uniquely for urban areas.
The turbines, the first of which are being installed in the next few months in Bristol, Swindon and London, promise to change the face of renewable electricity, and perhaps end the cold reception that conventional wind turbines have encountered from heritage groups, say the designers and developers, XCO2.
The designers say they may have overcome two drawbacks of traditional turbines. The turbine's triple helix form and vertical axis are said to make it almost silent, and it is believed to perform better in urban areas, where wind direction can vary by the minute. While there are other vertical-axis turbines, this is believed to be the first with three blades.
Named Quiet Revolution, the turbine is about five metres in length without a pole, and the designers claim it can produce 10,000kWh a year on an average wind speed of 5.8 metres a second. The company claims this would provide electricity for perhaps five energy-efficient homes. The combined cost and installation charge for a 6kW turbine would be about £28,000.
"We are being inundated with inquiries from China, the US, Africa and Japan," said Robert Webb, chief executive of XCO2. "They are being proposed for the Dontang eco-city near Shanghai. London is already taking a lead in sustainable energy technologies, particularly in new buildings, where 10% renewable energy is already required on site. We would like to see its historic buildings use them."
Yesterday XCO2 applied
to Westminster city council for permission to fix a 6kW turbine on the
facade of Buckingham Palace. In the daytime it would be a spinning "flagpole",
but at night it could become a glowing union flag hovering over the palace.
Not only do the turbines generate electricity; they can double up as art
or even advertising hoardings.