Philippe Starck back with a designer consumer wind turbine


Designer Philippe Starck got a bit petulant last spring, looked back a lauded career in design and proclaimed it all "unnecessary." I've been known to traffic in those same fruitless feelings of hopelessness about gadgetry myself, cathartic as they may be. So share my smile, I hope, as Starck introduces the "Democratic Ecology" wind turbine, a partially transparent plastic generator that he hopes to sell for about $630.

Starck, along with manufacturer Pramac, estimate the turbine can generate between 20% and 60% of a typical home's energy needs. I think it's a grand melding of aesthetics and practicality; I hope to be installing one on my roof when they are released in September.

(I'm blissing over questions of how one would actually incorporate this into their existing power infrastructure without either dumping right into a separate battery-backed circuit, but whatever! Love will find a way.)

DEMOCRATIC DESIGN? Philippe Starck’s Designer Wind Turbine [Inhabitat]

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18 Responses to Philippe Starck back with a designer consumer wind turbine

  1. mujadaddy says:

    Is there some link to the electromechanical operation of this device. I can’t figure it out.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very cool, but I would think you would not want it to be clear. Maybe shiny in fact, with a little light on top. You dont want birds or repairmen getting tangled up in it.

  3. technogeek says:

    The current way folks with local generators avoid needing battery banks is to invest in the hardware needed to feed the power back into the electric company’s lines.

    Unfortunately, an inverter sophisticated enough to properly match phase, and an electric meter which measures net power flow properly, and getting permission from the local grid to hook up this way, do add somewhat to the cost. I suspect that infrastructure isn’t included in the $650 price quoted above.

  4. technogeek says:

    Re $1: I think the answer is “When the wind hits it, it spins around its vertical axis. That turns a generator in the supporting pole.” Or were you asking a different question?

  5. goggins says:

    One could surround it with a chicken wire cage for bird safety but in CA it would just be an act of charity or green conscience to buy it. Under CA law, one’s local utility company can bill one for any electricity that one self-generates just as if they had provided it (with the sole exception of solar.) It took a referendum to get solar exempted from this “utility slavery” provision of the law, and it will take another to exempt wind. The “utility slavery” provision was part of the so-called “energy deregulation” gift to the utilities that led to the fake CA energy crisis, facilitated the Enron bilking of CA ratepayers, etc., etc.

  6. julian says:

    While I seriously doubt it would get anywhere near to providing 60% of a typical home’s electricity use with what I’ve read about the real world performance of small wind turbines, I’d really like to be proved wrong, especially assuming that price point is accurate.

    Though as Technogeek notes, there are a number of extra things you need to actually get the DC it’ll produce into home-usable and grid-exportable AC, with those things likely costing a few times more than it does (a decent inverter for it could be $2k on it’s own etc.).

  7. maoinhibitor says:

    I’m seriously looking for a rooftop solution for a small home in Massachusetts that would cover 50% or more of my home electricity needs and have a payoff of five or fewer years.

    I have been tracking solar clean power solutions, and would like to hear more about small wind.

    We have net metering in MA, which means any power you produce rolls back your electric meter. You never earn money – just bank credit.

    Any real-world solutions you can point me to?

  8. Anonymous says:

    If he’s able to pull even off 20% of a typical home’s electricity use for $630 that would be an energy revolution. That would mean a typical house could buy 5 of the things and cover all of their energy needs for $3150. That’s less than changing out your windows for more low-e. I’d love for him to pull this off, but I’d also love a pet pegasus to ride for my commute.

  9. Ceronomus says:

    I’ll be keeping an eye on this and certainly expect a product review once it is released. If the review is good, I’ll be lining up to buy a few of the things myself.

  10. Hello Fitchburg says:

    I’ve read some really bad stuff about mounting wind turbines on rooftops – enough to discourage me from pursuing it as an option here in North Central Mass.

  11. SamSam says:

    @ Hello Fitchburg (hey, I work near Fitchburg!):

    Are your referring to regular propeller-blade turbines being blown over? Vertical-axis turbines are generally pretty safe, as far as I’m aware. It’s a bit difficult to figure out how big this thing is supposed to be, though, which makes me not sure how easy it would be to install safely.

    Whether it can produce 60% of a home’s energy needs is debatable, as people have mentioned, but that’s again partly because we don’t know how big it is. It looks on my screen like it’s a foot tall, but with nothing to compare it to I bet it’s much larger.

    Finally, the price isn’t all that special, as far as I can see. A quick search of the web finds several other turbines at under $700. The key point is that it’s all the other hardware that costs the dough.

  12. jimkirk says:

    Power density of moving air is

    Power = 1/2 * Air Density * Area * Velocity^3 * efficiency

    Air density is about 1.3 kg per cubic meter.
    Say the wind is blowing at 6 meters/second (about 13 mph), there’s about 140 watts per square meter.

    But that’s limited by the resistance the turbine offers to the wind, otherwise it will simply blow around it, it turns out the absolute maximum power is 16/27 of that, or about 83 watts. Small wind turbines might get one quarter to half of that, maybe.

    And that’s for a one square meter cross section. Hard to tell, but a molded piece of plastic I doubt is going to be much bigger than that.

    For some reasonable power, say a kilowatt you’ll need over 60 km/hour wind with a one square meter area and 50% efficiency.

    Info on small wind turbines at

  13. Haroun says:

    From a bit of reading & haunting a few alternative energy sites I’ve gathered that wind is the least reliable, most difficult to harness power. The idea that a piece of plastic for $600-$700 will supply 60% of a homes energy needs is insane. Wouldn’t someone have done it already? As has been mentioned the infrastructure needed to take advantage of the power is quite a bit more than $650.
    But hopefully this is a harbinger that alt-energy is becoming popular again. You could heat a lot of showers with a couple of solar hat water panels with pumps run by a couple relatively small photovoltaic panels.

  14. mdhatter says:

    #7 Maoinhibitor – there is a company in Hingham, MA called Heliotronics that makes some neat systems. I’m not sure they do wind turbines, but I am pretty sure their systems can integrate it. Good luck!

  15. maoinhibitor says:

    #14 – MDHATTER

    Looks like I really need to chat with the folks at the Mass Tech Collaborative and get some information about what would work for me.

    It is interesting to note, that including $5000 for installation, I estimate I could have a grid-tied 2.5 KW Evergreen Solar PV array on my roof for under $20K, not including tax breaks or other incentives. This is within reach. I’ll have to do some bean counting to determine if it is the sensible thing to do it now, or to wait for the next generation of solar cells (greater conversion efficiency, lower system cost).

  16. bigvicproton says:

    Me pay $630? Thats unpossible! Me make 60% power? Thats unpossible too!

  17. maoinhibitor says:

    Looks like PV Solar is more realistic than small wind at the moment. The small wind results in Mass have apparently been disappointing.

    Through the Small Renewables Initiative, MTC has made about one hundred awards to small wind projects, more than thirty of which are now installed and operating…. On average, these systems are producing [only] ~30% of what was estimated.

    Small Wind Progress Briefing Summary

    Perhaps newer approaches will be more successful, but I’ll have to let the early adopters take the financial risk.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Not “blissing over.” “Glossing over.”

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