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Tree-Shaped Wind Turbines Soon to Debut in Paris

Jan 05, 2015 02:12 PM EST

An array of tree-shaped wind turbines is soon to make their debut in Paris, potentially revolutionizing this sector of renewable energy.

Developed by the French company NewWind, these "Wind Trees" are about the size and shape of real trees - standing at 11 meters (36 feet) tall and 8 meters (26 feet) in diameter - each sprouting 72 artificial leaves, reports. Scientists hope the unique design, which tries to make these towering turbines blend in with nature, can help avoid public opposition to these eyesores.

The Wind Tree may be tall, but they each have very little mass, making it so that they can generate power with a gentle breeze as slow as two meters per second (4.4 mph). Total power output across all 72 turbines is estimated at 3.1 kW. Although larger, traditional turbines can produce considerably more power, they need more wind to get going and thus operate fewer days of the year. But in the case of Wind Tree, it can be operational for 280 days each year on average.

According to the US Department of Energy, instead of using electricity to make wind, turbines use wind to make electricity. The way it works is wind turns the turbine's blades, which spin a shaft that is connected to a generator and makes electricity.

The problem people have with this form of renewable energy, aside from its unattractive appearance, is the fact that wind flow patterns and speeds vary greatly across countries, and so it seems like an unreliable source of energy.

Not to mention that the massive contraptions are a hazard to wildlife like bats and birds. Bats often mistake turbines for trees, and given that Wind Trees are made to look even more like these leafy plants, this misidentification may occur even more. And as for birds, they often get sucked into the whirling rotors, which spin up to 170 mph and create tornado-like vortexes.

Each Wind Tree is expected to cost $36,500, but could pay for itself in a few years. Paris will launch a test run of the design this coming March, and if successful, could strengthen this form of renewable energy and help move away from climate change-inducing activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.

A video of Wind Tree can be seen here.

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