Renewable Energy Technologies

Wind Energy for Buildings

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An international team of architects, engineers and aerodynamicists has come up with a design for a multi-tower office building or block of flats with wind turbines fitted in between. This design is one result from an EC-funded project, "Wind Energy for the Built Environment", or Project WEB.
Curved towers would funnel wind towards the turbines and improve efficiency, the researchers say. Preliminary testing on a seven-metre prototype, designed by Mecal Applied Mechanics in the Netherlands and erected at the UK's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, indicates that the design could be twice as efficient as a stand-alone wind power generator, despite the fact that it does not move to face the wind. Wind speeds in urban areas are typically about two thirds of those in rural areas, so the extra efficiency is vital, says the team.
Wind power is in general more cost effective and takes up less space than solar power. A typical mast generator is around five times less expensive than photo-voltaic solar panels that produce the same power. These panels would also be likely to occupy 10 times as much space.

Dynamic Building

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…The buildings look like a carnival attraction, and might make you dizzy just looking at them. Each of the 59 floors is rotating unevenly around a central concrete core. Wind turbines are stacked horizontally between each floor, so that when exposed to the atmosphere 50 or 100 or 500 feet off the ground, the wind turns the turbines, generating electricity for the buildings’ use—and more.
From the energy point of view, the building is an independent and aesthetic source of alternative energy. Each turbine generates 0.3 megawatts of electricity, so that the building’s 50 total turbines can generate 1,200,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year. As an average family’s annual power consumption is about 24,000 kilowatt-hours, each turbine can supply energy for about 50 families. The tower will have 200 apartments, which will use just four of the turbines for their energy needs. Another four of the remaining 44 turbines would provide power to the neighborhood of the building, and there would still be 40 extra turbines, which could supply power for 5-10 more buildings.

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At first, the idea may sound extremely expensive. Actually, architect David Fisher, well-known for his restoration projects in New York and Italy, uses a revolutionary construction process to reduce costs. Only the central core (which contains the elevators, plumbing and other utilities) is built on site, while each floor is prefabricated in a factory, reducing construction time and maximizing cost-effectiveness and quality control. The floors are then assembled from the top down, hoisted up on the central core at a rate of one floor in three days. Combined with solar panels, the wind turbines could produce about $7 million of surplus electricity per year, making the design a potentially profitable long-term investment.

The Dynamic Architecture structures don’t yet have plans to be built, but the idea is being seriously considered.

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