Building a Better Windmill

What if turbines weren’t so awful to be around?
More
Thomas Porostocky

Nobody likes living near wind turbines. They’re loud and obtrusive, and their slicing blades create a strobe-light shadow effect. nimbyism may be one of the reasons that wind energy, despite its many advantages, supplies just 4.8 percent of electric power in the U.S.

But what if turbines weren’t quite so awful to be around—what if, in fact, they were quiet and good-looking? Researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have led the development of a “windmill” that converts wind energy into electricity without using any moving parts.

A prototype of the Electrostatic Wind Energy Convertor, designed by the Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo, has a rectangular frame bridged by horizontal steel tubes, which are lined with electrodes that generate a negatively charged field. Nozzles on the tubes spray positively charged droplets of water [1]. When wind blows through the frame, the positive particles are pushed off the tubes, against the force of the negative field [2]. The separation of positive and negative charges generates potential energy that is converted into electricity [3]. Unlike traditional windmills, which convert rotational energy into electric power, this one is silent and is expected to require minimal maintenance.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Esther Yi does story research for The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In