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Straw Lampshade-Like Cover Turns Skyscraper Into Energy Harvester

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Elizabeth M
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Seriously cool technology
Elizabeth M   5/30/2013 8:49:57 AM
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So the implementation of this is a bit far off in the future, and there is no telling if it will work in practice, but the idea of turning skyscrapers into wind turbines is, in my opinion, seriously cool. There is so much wind energy to be harvested in cities, which themselves use so much electricity. If some or maybe in the future all of this could be transferred to wind, that would be really something. Even if this doesn't work, the idea that some creative people are thinking way out of the box to create such innovations is inspiring and could lead to other related inventions as well.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Seriously cool technology
TJ McDermott   5/30/2013 12:05:00 PM
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The technology IS cool, but aesthetics will always have a large say in what gets built.  The building does not look very attractive, more like it needs the efforts of a good groomer.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Seriously cool technology
Ann R. Thryft   5/30/2013 1:03:59 PM
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That's a clever idea, although I agree with TJ--wish it was better-looking.

a.saji
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Re: Seriously cool technology
a.saji   5/31/2013 12:56:52 AM
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@Ann: Yes the concept is good but the design is awful. Im not sure why they selected that kind of a design.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Seriously cool technology
Ann R. Thryft   5/31/2013 12:30:25 PM
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a.saji, I've noticed that industrial design and, to a somewhat lesser extent, civic design, doesn't always follow good artistic principles. On the very small scale, my commercial-grade dehumidifier does a great job, but since it was designed for maintenance operations of a business, no thought was given to making it look nice, and it's really ugly. OTOH, it sure gets the job done, unlike the pretty but relatively useless dehumidifiers designed for people's homes. My point is that design esthetics are often not considered, especially when coming up with new technologies and/or using new materials for existing uses. I can understand all that from the POV of limited budgets and/or development time. I only hope that a later rev will take esthetic concerns under consideration.

a.saji
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Re: Seriously cool technology
a.saji   6/29/2013 10:25:51 AM
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@Ann: Good point. I too feel that with time things will get better and better. That is something which we can expect right now. 

NadineJ
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Re: Seriously cool technology
NadineJ   5/31/2013 10:22:55 AM
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When I heard about this on the radio a couple of weeks ago, it seemed subtle.

This is hideous as a buidling!

But, it could be used for public art.  I like the "amber waves of grain" idea.

Ratsky
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Re: Seriously cool technology
Ratsky   5/31/2013 1:25:46 PM
"There is so much wind energy to be harvested in cities...."  That reminds me: Chicago is known as the "Windy City" not because of its climate, but because of its politicians!  THAT is the real energy that needs to be harnessed.

far911
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Re: Seriously cool technology
far911   5/31/2013 3:03:40 PM
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@Ratsky - If only it happening, we'd actually do something about it. I like your point about wind energy and I believe Chicago can serve as a good starting point for a venture of this nature. 

Elizabeth M
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Re: Seriously cool technology
Elizabeth M   6/3/2013 4:52:48 AM
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Yes, Ratsky, that's true and a little-known fact! I think both the wind and the political power in Chicago can be harnessed to make changes like this and use more renewables in urban areas just as they are being used in more rural areas.

j-allen
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Skyscraper energy harvester
j-allen   5/31/2013 8:26:57 AM
I wish the author had extracted his slide rule from his rectum and shown some calculations on just how much energy this system would harvest.  Would it, for example, deliver enough over a month to wind a watch? 

J. Williams
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Re: Skyscraper energy harvester
J. Williams   5/31/2013 11:32:47 AM
Yeah, I'm with you.  Give me a figure of merit like dollars per installed watt and then let me get over how stupid it looks.

cwoodhouse
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Abrasion
cwoodhouse   5/31/2013 9:03:36 AM
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Have they considered the abrasion of the straws against the building.?   It wont be more than a few month before the clear glass windows become a frosted opaque.  Won't the straws break?  What material can flap in the breeze months on end and survive?

notarboca
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Re: Abrasion
notarboca   5/31/2013 3:06:26 PM
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@cwoodhouse, I agree, the windows wouldn't take long to become opaque, and materials wise, the covering would soon start shedding like a puppy.

Corona Rich
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Raggmopp
Corona Rich   5/31/2013 9:15:42 AM
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I really, really like this from a asthetics point of view.  I can imagine the building having an "Amber waves of grain" effect that would be quite interesting.  It would help to balance the movement of the straws with stationary features, so the whole building doesn't look like Sully from Monsters Inc!

Practical?  I can see standing the straws away from the building to avoid abrasion with the windows, but I get seasick easily and flickering lights make me dizzy.  I'm not sure I'd like a window office!

But I like the low-impact energy-producing concept.  I routinely travel past the hundreds of wind generators in the wind farm west of Palm Springs and wonder if there could be a better way.

 

Constitution_man
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Re: Raggmopp
Constitution_man   5/31/2013 11:59:00 AM
It'd be a good idea to calculate the mass of the "straws" when their diameter triples [or quadruples] due to ice from freezing rain.  The resultant burden on the straws and on the structure could be devastating... and somewhat hazardous to folks afoot below!  The northern midwest US just experienced such ice coverage and lost tens of thousands of trees, power poles, etc.  Diameters of wires, branches, etc were as large as 4X due to the ice.

Ratsky
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YetiScraper!
Ratsky   5/31/2013 11:28:42 AM
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This has a real '60s-'70s look.  IMO, "hideous" is a rather mild adjective for this monstrosity.  As one who investigated several possible approaches for "clean" energy back in the REAL '60s, I'm pretty skeptical that this could ever be practical, let alone economically successful.  The Law of Unintended Consequences is universally ignored in most analyses of these "hair"-brained schemes.

Corona Rich
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Otter Pops by the Thousands
Corona Rich   5/31/2013 12:10:20 PM
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Good point, Constitution Man!  Being from Southern California, I completely forgot about the possible effects of ice!

eafpres
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Gold
Wind load and other issues
eafpres   5/31/2013 1:43:49 PM
Along with the already mentioned issues of abrasion, ice, and questionable power output, I add:

a) The conversion of wind energy to electrical in PZ devices is relatively good, The overall efficiency would include the effectiveness of coupling wind into movement of the devices to generate force on the PZ materials.  My guess is that compared to, say, 80% overall efficiency for a good wind turbine, this will be much, much lower.

b) If somehow a very high coupling of wind into mechanical force were acheived, then it would signficantly add to the wind load of the building, requiring heavier construction.  This would need to be accounted for in a total life cost calculation.

c) Most tall buildings require regular washing.  The fact is, there is a lot of dust and it settles on the vertical surfaces (windows) and must be washed off.  This thing will attract dust like crazy, and will be very difficult to clean.

 

GTOlover
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Re: Wind load and other issues
GTOlover   5/31/2013 3:12:00 PM
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That last point is a great observation!

Not only is this ugly, but it will be an ugly duster. Is this area prone to any siesmic activity? Nothing like shaking the dust off the duster (especially if the duster is the size of a building) to create a photogenic moment.

eafpres
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Re: Wind load and other issues
eafpres   5/31/2013 4:31:47 PM
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@GTOlover--not to make light of earthquakes, but I'm now seeing the picture in my mind of a dog shaking the water off.  So, if they build it, and are unlucky enough to have a large earthquake after a rainstorm, I hope the cameras are rolling.

William K.
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Strawscraper???
William K.   5/31/2013 3:48:04 PM
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ONLY IN SWEDEN would somebody come up with this. Just consider the logistic challenges of collecting the power generated that way. And the comments about dirt collection are certainly valid as well. In addition the thing looks sort of obscene.

Ratsky
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Re: Strawscraper???
Ratsky   5/31/2013 4:21:22 PM
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I had a similar thought, but kept it to myself..... looks like a monument to the French Tickler!

ttemple
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dumbest thing I've ever seen
ttemple   5/31/2013 4:09:24 PM
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This has to be one of the dumbest things I have ever seen, in any number of ways.  I am beyond words, so I'll leave it at that.

cookiejar
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Engineering challenge.
cookiejar   5/31/2013 9:58:07 PM
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The design presents some interesting electrical engineering challenges.

How would you hook up all the elements?  Their waveforms would be all different.  Remember, piezoelectric elements are both generators and actuators.  You cannot simply hook them up in series or parallel.   They are also of typically high impedance.

The high impedance of the piezoelectric elements might cause some interesting side effects to the usual electrostatic potential gradient with height.  Under some conditions the building might have the appearance of someone's hair when touching a Van de Graff machine.

A lightning strike would also present some interesting challenges.

This hairbrained concept seems more of that of an artist than an engineer.

bobjengr
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Straw Lampshade Cover
bobjengr   6/1/2013 2:31:30 PM
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This is an interesting post Elizabeth.  Thinking definitely outside the box.  I logged on to their web site but did not see information relative to how they capture and store energy.  Did they model the structure prior to installing the elements and do they have some idea as to how much energy can be stored?  I am also very interested in knowing how they tie the elements (straws) together for total production and storage. I know the testing is premature but knowing the life cycle of this project would be very very interesting.  I think maintenance would be somewhat of a nightmare but I suppose time will tell.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Straw Lampshade Cover
Elizabeth M   6/6/2013 4:24:42 AM
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Hi, bobjengr, I did ask more specific questions in an interview but I think there is a little proprietary concern going on and perhaps they don't want to give up all their secrets. This is a long term project so perhaps also they are still working out the technical aspects. I suspect you're right about maintenance, too!

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Give it time - This is new.
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   6/5/2013 1:17:33 PM
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Putting the rash of aesthetic opinions aside, this is different.  Let's address the practical technology,  then the aesthetics. (Not to mention all the relevant comments about dust, shaking, and degrading over time – real issues to address and overcome)

First: great idea to use urban settings, particularly large concrete canyons like Manhattan & Chicago, which have a natural tendency to 'corral' wind in the channels of the streets & avenues.  It's always windy, so this is a great venue for the technology to launch and develop.

The real breakthrough, tho' – is the straws themselves: piezoelectric ceramic discs anchored in a generator.  I'd like to learn more about those, and how they work to generate current.  They have to be expensive and the photo shows the tower covered with millions of them. A real economic challenge. I saw another comment about "where's the calculated efficiency?"

But hey; It's a start of a different idea.  Let it incubate a while; good things will come from it.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Give it time - This is new.
Elizabeth M   6/6/2013 4:32:09 AM
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JimT, I agree with all of what you say. I think the technology itself is still being developed, as this is a long-term project (as I mention in my comment to bob). So some questions maynot quite be answered yet. But yes, it's a novel idea, and these urban wind turbines could really potentially harness an as-yet untapped but great source of energy. Imagine how much money people could save?

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Give it time - This is new.
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   6/6/2013 8:42:06 AM
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( ** laughing ** ) as Hans Solo said to Luke, " I don't know ,,, I can IMAGINE quite a bit!"

Elizabeth M
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Re: Give it time - This is new.
Elizabeth M   6/11/2013 4:41:13 AM
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Haha, JimT. The second Star Wars reference in comments of one of my stories in less than a week. But none of us are geeks around here or anything. ;)

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