The Skyscraper with Wind Turbines Built-In

More

srata.jpg London's 43-story Strata Tower is a striking piece of architecture. Uncharitably dubbed the 'Electric Razor,' the building is the world's first to have built-in wind turbines.

Strata is the first building in the world to incorporate wind turbines into its structure," writes Guardian architecture critic Jonathan Glancey. "Yes, the new Bahrain World Trade Centre in Manama, by the firm Atkins, also boasts three giant turbines, but these are set on steel struts connecting its twin towers, not part of the actual towers themselves. While I can vouch for the strength of the south-westerlies that will turn Strata's blades, whether its turbines will set a precedent for future British towers is less clear: this rooftop was exceedingly hard to construct, almost prohibitively so, every part of it having to be hauled up."

It's easy to wax rhapsodic about the image they present in the sky. Glancey says the building feels like "an airship holding aloft the passenger cabins below," or maybe "more like an old-fashioned transatlantic liner."

What's fascinating about the huge turbines, aside from their looks, is how little of the building's power they will actually generate. If the wind machines work as expected, they'll make about eight percent (!) of the electricity needed to run the place. People may see them as a green emblem showing the bold solutions of a new era. But what they represent to me is the difficulty of the task facing the world as it tries to decarbonize its energy supply.

All the ingenuity involved in designing those turbines, building the components and hoisting them up there, and you don't even get 10 percent of the way there.

UPDATE: For some more (sobering) details, make sure to check out commenter Buckland's back-of-the-envelope calculations. Suffice to say: this is not how we're going to power a real, clean energy future. 

Image: iangallagher/flickr
 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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

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.


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

Just In