Philippe Starck Designs Mini Wind Turbine

July 10, 2008 at 9:00 pm Leave a comment

Personal wind turbines are more often invented than actually manufactured. Those that make it to the commercial stage are mostly available at several thousands of dollars. That’s why it is all the more surprising that as of next September you’ll be able to buy a true designer windmill for way less than that.

Philippe Starck has reignited his genius once again and designed a not so fully fledged personal mini windmill on the market. Stark’s temporary break from his self imposed retirement from design which he had declared ‘dead‘ is a breath of fresh air. Literally. Starck called the turbine the Democratic Ecology, which sounds heavy enough for what you see but which probably sums up what’s been on Starck’s mind lately.

Most green living and design websites have covered Monsieur Starck’s latest exploit, which you can’t really call an invention because he’s left the technical work to the engineers at Pramac. But I find the press coverage the most disappointing part of everything. Most articles fail to mention the practical/technical details of the wind turbine, symbol of Starck’s conversion to less materialism. Other than the news that the wind turbine can power a home for up to 60% and that it’s placed on a solid wooden platform, there are no details.

Even though there’s plenty of reason not to sing the praises of the looks of Starck’s Democratic Ecology, this is dismal to say the least. The machine definitely looks cool because Starck has captured the most interesting parts in his typical minimalist style. He’s used transparent polycarbonate which reflects the light when it’s spinning. And what’s more, he also designed a less ‘designery’ version for the faint at heart.

But if you’re seriously interested in powering up your house with this personal wind turbine, you’d want to know more than a bunch of synonyms for ‘slick’. I contacted the folks at Pramac, the Italian headquartered company that designed the tech specs but got lost in the corporate communications labyrinth of this traditional generator manufacturer which has only just started to branch out into eco solutions.

A quick search on the internet learns that there’s a bunch of mini wind turbines around, all of which are priced at around the $1,000 to $3,000 mark. Most are miniature versions of those found in wind parks beside the sea and in windy areas. A 5 meter pole in your backyard or a high roof top will do for most mini wind turbines. They generate on average a couple of kW of electricity power. Wind power can be stored in battery banks of various makes and is then passed through inverters to make the type of voltage of electricity you need to power your home applications.

Some mini wind turbines do generate quite a bit of noise, so you will be hard pushed to find them in built up areas. Others classify as absolute eye sores. In the UK, a type of wind turbine that had been in use for decades in sailing boats –Micro Wind Turbines- are rapidly becoming popular in urban areas. The turbines are specifically designed to supplement national grid electricity. They pay themselves back because of the lower electricity bills. You should not expect too much from this turbine. At best it will generate just a few hundred watts; just about enough to power your energy savings light bulbs on a windy day.

In the absolute budget category, you’d have to think about making your own turbine. Treehugger featured the Air-X mini wind turbine a while back. This is a small wind turbine for home use. The manufacturers say the thing powers any size battery bank from 25 to 25,000 amp hours or higher. That’s probably in the same region as the Democratic Ecology. A person commenting on the article mentioned that the cost of the pole on which the Air-X as pictured on Treehugger sat was probably more expensive than the magic blades themselves. But that’s no surprise as the Air-X is priced at $500 which is about the cheapest around.

It’s very likely that the Democratic Ecology wind turbine will have similar technical specs to the Air-X. Starck also designed a less ‘designery’ version for the people who might have already bought into his proclamation that all’s useless that his name is associated with.

Further convincing evidence that Mr Starck is truly serious about giving the planet a breather is the price of the Democratic Ecology, which is about the lowest around. I don’t know how design usually works, but I would guess that you pay mostly for the work Pramac put in and that the good looks should be considered like a gift from nature. The product, which will hit the shelves next September, is going to cost a reasonably affordable $633 or EUR400.

I for one am glad Philippe Starck has made his mini come back not least because wind power is incredibly measurable. The organization provides up to date information about the state of play of wind powered wattage around the globe and this data enables you to check out where you fit in personally.

The organization predicted last January that globally installed wind power capacity in March 2008 would have been over 100,000 megawatts. That number is based on 2007 growth numbers. Wind power capacity grew by 20,000 megawatts in 2007, bringing the total number to 94,100 megawatts. That is enough for residential electricity provision for 150 million people.

One in every three countries now generates a portion of its electricity from wind, with 13 countries each exceeding 1,000 megawatts of installed wind electricity-generating capacity.

The wind power data is tracked as an ‘eco economic indicator’ by Earth Policy, because the organization believes wind power is set to become the foundation of the new energy economy. Other eco indicators they track include melting ice around the globe, bike production numbers, global temperatures and water quantities.

Entry filed under: Green News.

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