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Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

May 26

Using Existing Infrastructure for Wind Turbines

Posted in Energy Inventions | Wind Power | Wind Turbines

Wind-it The Metropolis Magazine has been holding Next Generation Design Competition since 2003. They want to provide a platform for young designers to promote the spirit of activism, social involvement, and entrepreneurship. They offer prize money of $ 10,000. But the real attraction is the publicity given to the projects of winners and runners-up. This recognition helps abstract ideas take concrete forms. For 2009, the theme for the Next Generation Design Competition was: How do we fix our energy addiction? They offered some guidelines, “Think about how we live and work, what we use, how we get where we need to go, hidden costs to our pocket books and the environment, across the whole design spectrum. Focus on one area that needs fixing—products, interiors, buildings and landscape, communication systems, or anything else you can imagine—and develop your idea fully. And above all, think of our energy addiction as a design problem at all scales.”

The result of the Next Generation contest 2009 is out. A French team of an engineer along with two architects has won this year’s prestigious prize for “Wind-it” design. They are the first non-US winners of the prize. The team suggests to place wind turbines inside existing high-voltage electricity pylons. Names of the members of the winning team are Julien Choppin and Nicola Delon. They are partners in the Paris architecture firm Encore Heureux. The third member Raphael Menard is the director of Elioth that is a conceptual and experimental research wing of the large French engineering firm Iosis Group. They were judged to have best met the 2009 Next Generation Prize Challenge: “FIX OUR ENERGY ADDICTION.”

Wind farms are often considered an eyesore and they require large area for installation. People often complain that they spoil the skyline of the area. Wind-it project offers to answer many challenges we face while setting up wind farms in an area. One of the greatest challenges to the expansion of wind power: where to site wind turbines. Choppin, Delon and Menard’s design uses the existing infrastructure. They suggest the use of already existing towers and pylons that dot the more than 157,000 miles of high voltage power lines in the U.S. They ask us to install the wind turbines within already sited structures. Alexandros Washburn, who is the New York’s chief urban designer and a judge for the Next Generation competition, shares his opinion, “The genius of the proposal is that it solved probably the biggest issue of wind production, which is where to locate these very large structures. By incorporating them into transmission towers, which are already located and of the same scale as wind towers, the idea of how it looks on the landscape is very cleverly integrated.”

Another problem that wind farms face is how to transmit the power generated by wind? Wind-it proposal is so simple and practical that we often wonder that why this project has already been not implemented. Wind-it solves the problem of linking energy generation and electricity transmission in the same way–by co-locating them.

By using this new idea, we can pump wind energy right into the grid. We don’t have to create an extensive infrastructure and save the money. Statistics suggest if a third of France’s towers were installed with turbines, they could crank out as much as two nuclear reactors — about 5% of the country’s power needs. This figure might not sound impressive but it will generate a steady stream of clean energy by investing less amount of money.

A marriage of towers and turbines isn’t unheard of. Urban Green Energy, a wind-power start-up in New York, presently installed turbines atop the French telecom company Alcatel-Lucent’s cellular-communication spires. The turbines are nearly indistinguishable to those explained in Wind-it. The key difference is that the Alcatel-Lucent system utilizes its power on-site; Wind-it suggests tapping it into the grid.

There are some practical problems in implementing Wind-it project as such. The American power grid is clogged, archaic, and small. It is possible that the areas where Wind-it could be most effective would be unable to transmit electricity to the cities where it’s most needed. It’s an obstacle for any wind-power entrepreneur in the country. For a fresh enterprise that leans almost entirely on existing infrastructure, it could be the coup de grâce. “The most efficient way to go about this,” says Nick Blitterswyk, cofounder of Urban Green Energy, “would be to build new towers.” Many of the experts had suggested that route. Wind-it XL was designed as a two-in-one package. It minds several, if not all, the issues above and would be best suited to regions where the nuts and bolts of modern civilization remain unassembled.

  • russ


    1. The existing towers are over designed to accept the additional static plus wind load? Poor engineering if so.

    2. The size of the rotors is dramatically smaller – still useful? The higher the placement of the rotors within the tower the smaller the available ID.

    3. The rotors will be at much lower elevations than normally desired – still economic power can be generated? Swept area is the key to power generation with bigger being better.

    4. Transformers, switchgear etc will have to be included for each individual tower rather than on a collective basis which would increase the cost?

    This starts to sound like residential wind power generation – gets people all excited but is often of no practical use.

    Possibly the best bet is for new towers to be designed with this concept in mind in areas where wind would be economical to begin with.

  • Ron Wagner

    On the contrary. There are great locations near most populated areas. They are offshore. They can be far enough offshore so that they are over the horizon if desired. Wave and tidal turbines are another option. Not only the oceans, but also the Great Lakes are a possibility. I personally think that most people would approve of wind turbines in their vicinity anyway. I think they are a thing of beauty.

  • Sterling Allan

    This might sound like a great idea to a lay person. But what it doesn’t take into consideration is the cost of stepping up the voltage to the transmission line level, and syncing the phase. These are very expensive components, and are usually done for an entire wind farm or power plant at once, not for each small generator system. They are cost effective at the Gigawatt level, but not really at the megawatt level.

  • James Gilbert

    That is amazing. What a brilliant idea 🙂

  • russ

    In summary: I beg to differ about the brilliance of the idea!

    1. Low output due to small available space for the rotors – forget mW machines which are industry standard. Swept area of the rotors is what counts for production

    2. Due to the lower elevations of the rotors the wind velocity will be less & further lower the output

    3. Forget existing towers which are not designed for the additional load

    4. Forget saving any money due to the extreme additional cost of the required individual switch gear, equipment to step up the voltage to line voltage

    The only advantage is to the kids who got the prize.

  • raphael menard

    Hi Russ,
    Thanks for us, I’m one of the kid and the dad of the concept ! To get back on your comments and give some answers
    1 : In Wind-it XL, the swept area can be up to 1000sqm and might reach 2000sqm (equivalent of a 50m diam. HAWT)
    2 : The height of Wind-it is function of grid and topography constraints but can be greater than 100m
    3 : We agree ! That’s the reason why we have designed extra-structure for Wind-it L (not shown in published images) and we mainly focus on Wind-it XL for industrial development
    4 : We save money as soon as in the XL case, the big part of the structure is paid for hanging the lines (for HAWT, structure+foundations represent ~20% to 30% of investment cost)
    4b : We have also a patent on Darrieus’s blades to make them more efficient and economic !

  • Will

    Would like to see the rotor design, as obviously HAWTs arent going to work. Back to the old “VAWTs are inefficient” argument then.

    Personally I think its a good idea as most of the good onshore sites (in my country anyway)are taken or designated as SSIs. Capacity factors are dropping from 0.30 to 0.25 since wind farms have been installed in the last few decades.

    2000m2 swept area? those towers must be at most 15m X 100m, and there is no way you can catch all the wind inside them, unless you start hanging propellers off the outside? I bet you have it figured out anyway. Well done.

    I Just hope you can get the power companies to accept the new additions.

  • russ

    Hi Raphael (kid & Dad) – Thanks for the reply.

    There are more points at: which I believe need answers as well.

    The original article led me to understand existing towers would be used which as you agree is impractical. The artists sketch with this article is really very poor. Comments by Mr. Washburn are totally misleading I believe. This is a greenfield project stuff.

    Darrieus turbines are known as inefficient units in comparison to HAWTs unless your new blade design manages what no one has been able to over the past many years.

    The comments in the article about problems of connecting windfarms into the grid seem bogus to me. Either a farm is a good business model or it isn’t. It might seem green to be able put things right where you want but it isn’t good business.

    It will be interesting to see the outcome of the trade off using the present cost of the towers and the cost of a turbine with equivalent output and related infrastructure to pay for the stronger tower, your turbine and the additional infrastructure required.

    I have seen the tall turbine towers and blades being transported and they are far more than just a pole – not cheap items.

    Good luck

  • RandyG

    Raphael, good on you! Perhaps instead of following the typical American Conservative philosophy of naysaying and cut-downs, we could try to come at things from a positive direction, i.e. how COULD it work instead of it’ll NEVER work.

    Let’s look at what the article says:
    “The most efficient way to go about this,” says Nick Blitterswyk, cofounder of Urban Green Energy, “would be to build new towers.”
    I think this is obvious.

    “The American power grid is clogged, archaic, and small.”
    Frankly, this statement is being generous to our grid at best. Anyone in this country that has a clue understands that the grid is in dire need of modernization.
    Thus, new towers, and means of transmission, are a matter of necessity as well as practicality.

    As it happens, I live in Buffalo, a few miles from one of the largest hydro facilities in the NE US in Niagara Falls. Those towers are truly massive, and provide more than enough height to capture viable wind. We also have one of the best average wind speeds in the NE.

    As far as tapping into the grid, why can the power not be used locally, or transmitted to a central transformer where the cost burden can be concentrated?

    C’mon folks, be CONstructive, not DEstructive!

  • Green Rabbit

    Wind energy just secondary solar energy! Where do you think the wind energy comes from?

    There is more than enough energy available, it’s storing it that is the problem.

    How many ways to create energy… endless…

    You can use the currents of the ocean… out of the way, works all the time… and is very cheap… moving water turns generator….

    Solar energy should be used for a global sharing electrical grid… then no need to store, you just share to the dark side of the planet… the planet has a 24 cycle…. 12 in dark, 12 in light… it’s a no brainer here…

    Except nobody will do it.. too political….how unfortunate and a shame. As solar energy would provide for the planet needs as clean energy…

    Another free energy that is clean when down right is magma energy. Yes, the earth is full of magma… many places it comes to the surface, like Hawaii…

    you don’t need to touch it.. just use the heat…

    Why do we waste energy too? recycle energy… it doesn’t mean biomass either… biofuels are the devil, they steal food from our plates… that isn’t going to work… unless you plan to starve out a few billion individuals….

    Sorry, but true…

    The problem is, the world has become dependent upon dirty energy… oil and coal will be running out sooner then you think…

    Are you prepared to do without?

  • hwg

    I don’t really see any issues w/ connecting a farm to a grid. There are several farms here where I am at in NorthEast PA that connect up and power a few of the industrial parks here.

  • Richard Kingston

    In response to the comment-

    “4. Transformers, switchgear etc will have to be included for each individual tower rather than on a collective basis which would increase the cost?”

    This is not an issue! The windings in the turbine would be designed to produce high voltages and feed directly into the HV grid. Control electronics are commonplace and are never collective for turbines.

    Well done lads – a good idea!

  • russ

    Richard – to the HT voltage of the line? No.

  • Richard

    Russ, through control electronics which are needed anyway (for grid outage, phase control etc), Yes. Example- If you wind the stator coils with 100 turns of wire, say, one might expect 50v per coil output, wind the same coils with 1000 turns of thinner wire and get 500v etc. Manufacturers wind the coils of turbines to match the required voltage. Low numbers of thick wires for 12v, 24v, 48v battery charging applications and higher numbers of thinner wires for higher voltage needs. Same volume of copper used in both, but different output. See for details if you are interested in the technical stuff.

  • Jeanie Kilgour

    Randy, thank you for trying to turn this into a Constructive topic. That seems to be beyond the ken of some people. There is exactly one way of insuring defeat — not making an attempt. We have gotten so caught up in the “why nots” in the US that we can’t seem to advance to the “why we can” anymore. That is not how this country became as innovative as it used to be. If we want to succeed, we have to follow your advice and try address the problems in a positive way.

  • russ

    Hi Jeanie,

    Many people have trouble that in engineering you don’t grab the first neat sounding thing that comes by.

    You look at it, study it, make your points, get answers and try to come to an informed conclusion.

    When Richard referred to the ‘other power’ in the next to last post he pointed out one of the less technical sites on the net who are busy trying to peddle books, training and stuff that doesn’t really work except for a backyard inventor or somebody that loves to tinker.

    A good site for information on wind turbines is I find them unbiased and not trying to hustle you.

  • Richard

    Hi Russ, Its true that in the world of engineering a good idea is not enough on its own, it needs to be practical and implementable as well. The idea of using existing electricity structures to generate would seem to me to be a very good idea. Any wind machine relies on good wind to produce energy and therefore many pylon sites would be unsuitable; but there are a great many sites which are perfect for this type of project and until we try it we simply wont know. There are lots of examples of ‘crackpot’ ideas which are now indispensable to mankind, nothing ventured nothing gained.

    I can’t let your rather dismissive and disingenuous comment about ‘’ pass without comment. Power from the wind is not a new idea and has been in development for more than 150 years, each new generation adding to the combined knowledge of the previous. On this site you will find very technical details of the latest generation of turbines that don’t need big industry to create. They are busily ensuring that harnessing and marketing wind energy does not become the sole domain of the bigger power generators and supply companies. There is more real invention here than on the site you mention which is essentially a commercial magazine (which requires a subscription by the way Jeanie). Suggesting that their ‘stuff doesn’t work’ is simply wrong . These fellows are VERY highly regarded, worldwide, in the ‘small wind’ community and are leaders of invention in their field. If anyone could come up with a practical way of producing turbines that fit into pylons its probably these chaps. There is no ‘hustle’ or ‘peddle’ here, just the accumulated wisdom I mentioned earlier distributed for free.


  • russ

    Hi Richard,

    I will be the first to admit that I have little faith in the small backyard wind turbine. Too many sites and people promote something that really has little practical use.

    A turbine rated for 1 kW with a wind speed of something like 25 mph can be expected to put out 115 to 125 watts at a far more typical wind speed of 10 to 12 mph. Very few places in the US have average wind speeds in excess of that (10 to 12 mph). 100 watts, to me, is a waste of time, money and effort. Others will have a different opinion obviously.

    Never the less the suppliers only want to talk about the 1 kW rating – unrealistic as it is.

    Putting a turbine on a roof top is another tricky thing that fails far more often than not.

    I have found to be open and accurate in their assesments. The magazine is subscription but two of their articles 1) wind turbine buyers guide and 2) Apples and Oranges are freely available on the net to anyone wanting to look. I suggest reading the two documents to anyone interested in wind power.

    The Warwick Trials Final Report is a detailed study of small turbines – again easily found.

    Another study of small turbines is

    NRDC provides wind speed information for many places in the US – that gives one an idea of what might be expected – not guaranteed


  • Rick Williams

    From my home I can see a line of electricity pylons and one day I had a very similar idea to one described here – putting vertical axis wind-turbines inside the dead space within pylons. My assumption would be that there would have to be an extra low-power cable connecting a line of pylons to a step-up station. My thought was that perhaps these wind generators could make good the transmission losses within the power grid, or part thereof.

  • Tom Stacy

    This idea is foolishness, but who’s counting? Certainly not NREL, EPA or thirty state administrations who are enamored with the Rube-Goldberg nature of industrial wind energy to begin with. Open lattice towers are attractive to birds as proven by early turbine towers out west. This is why the new ones use a monopole. Bird deaths would be gruesome with this concept.

    The usable swept area perpendicular to wind direction inside a lattice transmission tower is about 600 square feet. A 2MW H axis turbine has about 20,000 square feet of usable swept area. Wind shear causes winds at 40 – 125 ft. from ground level to be lower and less directionally stable than winds at 200 to 450 ft. aloft.

    Due to the low output per V axis turbine, the transformer, collection lines and interconnection would be very expensive. This idea is just another wind energy pipe dream – just like the bizarre reality we experience with commercial wind today – high cost, low value, making America broke by wasting human and financial capital while making an enormous industrial footprint.

  • jez

    What a brilliant idea. Many people would do the same as you did because it can protect mother earth!

  • Rob

    Simply put wind turbines on the high transmission lines? Yeah, it sounds good in theory, but it sounds suspect. Realistically, I think that could create a number of problems for servicing both the wind generator and the power lines. Additionally, you’d have to assume that most of these towers are in good wind locations. You may be talking about a minimal contribution to the power grid. It SHOULD be done, if possible, but I have my doubts about its potential impact.

    That said, I really don’t like the comments of Tom. Wind Power is not inefficient or expensive at all! Typical comment from some brainwashed fool. Additionally, do your research about bird deaths! There is no proven fact that they are drawn to wind turbines at all, in fact most ACTUAL research shows that this the bird death thing is entirely made up, as they clearly see what is happening and avoid flying near turbines. But hey, keep reading your backward-thinking pro-oil right-wing blogs, man!

    Let me also point out how SLOWLY the new, large turbines move…. birds are not blind, they can see much better than we can anyway. I think you’re thinking of those fast-spinning little windmill things that generate a 12V battery or something.

    In any case, it’s hardly “making America broke,” it actually gives farmers a lot of money if they agree to put turbines on their land. Also, wind farms avoid the insane amount of money that goes to building coal and nuclear plants. You do realize that the government SUBSIDIZES those antiquated power sources, right?

  • Bill Steckowich

    Here in early 2010, the current buzz words for alternative energy sources seem to be circle around wind and solar as the best alternatives to non-replaceable fossil fuels. Yet we hear that solar panels are available to the general public with rebates from Gov’t entities for both, but how many retired homeowners have the dollars to put up for the initial investments, and of those retirees, the rebates can only be used against their taxable IRA’s,or their 401k’s or equivalents. Like most retirees, whose lifespan is likely to be less than 25 years, the return on investment is probably good for the next generation, and the funds these rebates can be drawn against is too low to be of any real value.

    So what do folks like us do? Here in the remote corners of NJ where the population of a few thousand people is spread across 24 square miles, many of us have turned to the renewable source of energy, that is called wood. Personally, we have invested a very efficient soapstone wood stove that has a 30 gallon water filled heat exchanger. The water is heated in this three ton “woodburner” just twice per day. The heat exchanger circulates the 180 degree heated water into a 300 gallon highly insulated storage tank. Therefore, although the initial costs are high, for which there are no rebates, the resultant heat utilized by burning wood in a 93 plus efficient wood burner saves us more than 60 percent of the propane utilized by one of the 95 percent efficient boiler. Currently we utilize 50 percent of our wood for the burner by recycled scrap wood and 50 percent from fallen trees harvested most recently from the gypsy moth blight we had a few years back. Hopefully, we foresee replanting a few acres of Poplar trees which can be used for future heat as they mature in roughly 20 years. Existing oaks fall now and then, and with the high efficiency wood burner, only two cords are used per year. Isn’t time to think of a renewable energy source as wood and other vegetation?

  • Brian Whitley

    1) To all those whom it may concern: Yes it is possible to atop windmills to power line towers.
    2) Thanks to all here for advising of such. I currently hold the patent on the Idea and several designs.
    3) To help those with this idea. Check Soil samples of current existing towers for increased vibration analysis.
    4) Good Luck! I will be contacting you.

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