Wind Power Sways Away In Windstalk Concept

Variations on the traditional wind turbine design are popping up often these days – and now we’ve got a concept that goes a step beyond even the newfangled vertical-axis devices, doing away with the turbine completely. Meet Windstalk.

This alternative alternative-energy concept, brought to our attention by Discovery News, was offered up by the New York design firm Atelier DNA – and took second prize – in the Land Art Generator competition. The task was to design a clean-energy-producing art installation for one of three United Arab Emirates sites. Windstalk chose the site on the edge of Masdar City, the 100-percent clean energy, zero-emissions development getting under way in Abu Dhabi.

Windstalk concept

image via Atelier DNA

“Our project starts out as a desire, a whisper, like grasping at straws, clenching water,” reads the opening lines of the design’s description. “Our project takes clues from the way the wind sways a field of wheat, or reeds in a marsh.”

Windstalk concept

image via Atelier DNA

The Masdar installation consists of 1,203 stalks made of carbon fiber reinforced with resin, each stalk about a foot in diameter at its base, tapering to just a couple of inches wide 180 feet up at its top. The top few feet of the poles are lit by an LED lamp that glows with a brightness proportionate to the swaying of the poles. “When there is no wind – when the poles are still – the lights go dark,” the designers say.

Poetic, yes, and lovely – but as required there’s the utilitarian side to the concept as well: These stalks use piezoelectric ceramic discs that, when forced into compression, generate a current through electrodes.  At the base of each stalk is a torque generator, which “converts the kinetic energy of the swaying poles into electrical energy by way of an array of current generating shock absorbers, which convert energy produced by the forced movement of fluid through the shock absorber cylinders.”

And there’s energy storage: “Below the field of poles are two very large chambers, chambers as large as the whole site. The chambers are shaped like the bases of the poles but inverted, then inverted again, and again and once more. There’s an upper chamber and a lower one beneath. When the wind blows, part of the electricity generated powers a set of pumps, the pumps move water from the lower chamber to the upper one. When the air is still – when there is no wind – the water from the upper chamber flows down again turning the pumps into generators.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.