Silent, tree-shaped wind turbines to debut in Paris

Wind-generated power has the potential to make a huge contribution to varying renewable energies around the globe, but the issue of where turbines are built can be a big issue for some communities, or even countries. When wind turbines can't be built off-shore, some places feel constructing them on land ruins the scenery of the landscape, takes up too much space, or generates too much noise. Enter France's NewWind, which has been developing aesthetically pleasing, tree-shaped turbines meant to run silently within cities, at ground level.

Dubbed the Wind Tree, NewWind's turbines measure 36 feet (11 meters) tall and around 26 feet (8 meters) in diameter, and feature 72 artificial leaves. Each leaf is actually a small turbine that rotates while in a vertical position. Due to their light weight material, they can spin enough to generate power with as little as 4.4 mph (2 meters/second) of wind; nothing more than a gentle breeze.

NewWind says the 72 turbines on a single tree can generate 3.1kW of power, which may not seem like much in comparison to the huge turbines most often seen, but again because of their low mass, the leaves are expected to spin on roughly 280 days out of the year. Large turbines spin less frequently because of how much wind is needed.

Several Wind Trees are scheduled to be installed in Paris this March as part of a test. One hurdle to future wide-spread adoption is that each tree costs around $36,500, but it's argued that they can pay for themselves within just a few years.

Each unit has its cables and generators sealed within its steel housing, and they can be either connected to public power grids or generate electricity for specific buildings or complexes. The ideal goal for these turbines is that they be installed in somewhat large numbers throughout a city, possibly in clusters, and since they operate completely silent, they could act as urban sculptures or maybe even be scattered among real trees within public parks.