Renewable, yes – but is it environmentally friendly?

Renewable, yes – but is it environmentally friendly?

Alternative energy sources, like wind power, have long been branded “green” solutions as the world seeks new ways to keep everything going. These aren’t as environmentally friendly as we’ve been led to believe however …

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) – a non-profit science advocacy organisation based in the United Sates – says it best: “Despite its vast potential, there are a variety of environmental impacts associated with wind power generation that should be recognised and mitigated.”

Some of the major “culprits” include land use impact (although some of the land can be used for a variety of other productive purposes), the impact on wildlife (most notably on birds and bats), sound disturbance (both aerodynamic and mechanical sound) and the visual effect of these farms.

Nonetheless, this energy source is one of the most sustainable ways to generate electricity without toxic pollution or global warming emissions … it just needs to be implemented differently.

Things are looking promising for wind power thanks to the “Wind Tree”, wind turbines from the French company NewWind that look a lot like trees. They’re safer to wildlife, quieter, take up a lot less space (will even be implemented in urban areas) and look a lot better.

The company’s founder, Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, told Hexapolis (an online digest dabbling in intriguing enterprises): “The idea came to me in a square where I saw the leaves tremble when there was not a breath of air … the energy had to come from somewhere and be translatable into Watts.”

So it was. The Wind Tree uses its 72 leaf-shaped, miniature turbines (made from plastic) to generate electricity from a breeze as faint as 7 km/h. Reports state that the tree can produce an average of 3,1 kW when all the turbines are a-rustle.

Each of these trees, which will cost around US$ 36 500 (around R440 000), is 11 m tall and eight metres in diameter at its widest point.

NewWind is testing its green creation between March and May in Paris. It’s reported that about 40 more units are due to be installed around France in September.

It would seem that the world is really moving towards environmentally friendly alternatives. And, while it is environmentally friendlier, renewable energy is moving in the right direction to truly earn its “green” label.

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