Atelier DNA image of a Windstalk farm in the UAE
Atelier DNA image of a Windstalk farm in the UAE

A glimpse of the outline of the 828 metres tall Burj Khalifa tower can remind those landing at Dubai airport that this is a city which has made some phenomenal investments in cutting edge design and technology.

However near neighbour in the UAE, Abu Dhabi could be about to do something rather more subtle but powerful , and on a world scale, with a different investment in alternative energy technology.

This involves the use of reed like Windstalks to turn the bending force of wind into electrical power, all without using the noisy bird eating rotors of current wind farm designs, to paraphrase their critics.

Inside a Windstalk field, image by Atelier DNA
Inside a Windstalk field, image by Atelier DNA

Yes, the connection with aviation is somewhat tenuous, other than the common imperative of replacing fossil carbon releasing sources of energy with those that are carbon neutral, or even, nearly, carbon zero, at least in operation following construction.

Look closely in the right hand middle foreground of the top graphic showing the Dubai skyline and you can spot the airport.

How do wind stalks work? They are fields of 60 metre high carbon-fibre stalks, reinforced with resin, about 20 cms wide at their bases tapering to about 5 cms across at the top. Each stalk will contain alternating layers of electrodes and ceramic discs made from piezoelectric material, which generates a current when put under pressure. In the case of the stalks, the discs will compress as they sway in the wind, creating a charge.

Much more can be found in this feature story, or by visiting the design firm Atelier DNA, who made this particular proposal into the winning entry for an Abu Dhabi competition to design power generators for open spaces to go with its Masdar eco-centre project.

Be aware that the Windstalk technology may be a little ahead of its time, and that perhaps there are some important advances in materials required to bring it to full efficiency. But that hardly detracts from a concept that could overcome many of the objections and frustrations of wind farming technology today, and perhaps make a highly useful contribution to reducing fossil carbon releases into the environment.

A Windstalk farm from above, image by Atelier DNA
A Windstalk farm from above, image by Atelier DNA
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