Windmills have been common in the Netherlands for centuries, but no one could ever imagine a windmill that can power a whole town and can also be lived in. Such structure may soon become a reality thanks to a new sustainable development concept proposed by Dutch engineers. A construction called the Dutch Windwheel can be both a silent wind turbine and a circular building that houses apartments, hotel rooms and offices. Except for generating clean energy, the Windwheel will also harvest rainwater and even convert the residents’ waste into biogas.
The 173-meter-high (570 foot) structure designed for Rotterdam consists of two rings installed on an underwater foundation. This kind of design creates a feeling that the whole construction is floating on the water. The inner ring is composed of a steel frame and a glass exterior, which makes it a perfect place for a restaurant, seven-story hotel of 160 rooms, 72 apartments and offices paired with a stunning view of the city. The outer ring is planned to be used as a Ferris Wheel – its 40 rotating cabins can take visitors both above the city and below the surface of the canal. This experience is also going to be complemented by the 3D interactive technology – the visitors will have the opportunity to attend 30-minute tours guided by holographic virtual guides.
The technology that makes it possible to generate wind power silently is no less impressive than the futuristic design of the Windwheel. The work of the turbine located within the inner ring of the structure is based on the innovative technology called electrostatic wind energy converter (EWICON), which transforms wind energy, along with water and an electric field, into electricity. What is so innovative about this technology is that power generation does not require any movement of the mechanical parts of the turbine. This is exactly why the Windwheel is completely silent and motionless, unlike most wind turbines. Moreover, this technology will also significantly reduce maintenance costs of the turbine.
Aimed to make the best use of sustainable development approaches and clean energy resources, the Windwheel will be covered in solar PVs and will also have a climactic facade. From harvesting rainwater to recycling tap water and even producing biogas from the residents’ organic waste, the construction will have an efficient water system and innovative recycling facilities.
At the moment, it is difficult to say how much electric power the Windwheel will be able to produce. The project is still at the planning stage, and the tabletop prototype generates only 12.5 milliwatts, which is not enough to power even a light bulb. At the same time, its efficiency only approaches 3% while conventional wind turbines reach 45% efficiency. However, the authors of the project believe that a 570-foot version will do much better thanks to the future technology advances – it is estimated that the building will generate up to 1 megawatt of electricity, which, in fact, is enough to power 1000 homes.
“At this moment the energy EWICON delivers is too low, but we still have about seven years to optimize [the system],” Lennart Graaff, the development’s general manager, told Forbes. “Our aim is to develop a building that generates more energy than it uses. And we will [employ] every innovation that can contribute to that goal.”
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