The concept of ‘lightness’ fits very comfortably with designing a wind turbine. Renzo Piano Building Workshop is working with Enel Green Power to build a new type of wind-powered generator - a line in the sky, with two transparent blades reminiscent of the wings of a dragonfly. By considering the development and the current status of wind turbines, powerful yet delicate machines, by studying their details and mechanisms, this project considers issues of efficiency, sustainability and the impact of their widespread presence on the landscape.
The design for RPBW’s new wind turbine is impacted on by a wide range of considerations; reduction, simplification and the elimination of excess material are all indispensible concepts when seeking to minimalise shape and construction. The new machine falls into the category of ‘mini wind turbines’, it is small and can produce up to 55 Kw. It doesn’t so much take up space as float through it.
The same ‘piece by piece’ research and experimentation RPBW applies to other projects went into the process of designing this turbine, breaking down and analyzing everything known about the technology, isolating and concentrating on specific problems, weighing the efficiency of each component and the quality of the materials. The most important goal for this new wind turbine prototype was to reduce environmental impact as much as possible, one of the most important issues in determining its diffusion in the landscape. Visual impact, the noise factor, ease of transport, assembly and maintenance are today the critical issues facing the most common type of wind turbine, victims of their own size.
The idea of drastically reducing the turbine’s size went hand in hand with that of being able to install it in places other than the usual open fields: in folds in the landscape, gorges, ravines and on slopes, anywhere the wind gets channelled and picks up speed. This would result in a more constant generation of electrical energy and a product that can harness even the lightest breezes.
Unlike traditional turbines, the one designed by RPBW has only two blades and is based on a simple almost graphic concept: compared to the three-bladed version, when there is no wind, this solution has a minimal visual impact on the landscape, a slender vertical line with the blades vertically aligned with the mast. The entire structure is slim, light partially transparent, and easy to assemble. The steel mast is 20m high and has a diameter of only 35cm. The carbon and polycarbonate blades have a combined diameter of 16m. Electricity is produced by three generators: two along the main mast, with a third smaller one on the hub of the tail rotor.
A prototype is currently being tested.
Client: ENEL Green Power SpA
Renzo Piano Building Workshop, architects
Design Team: S.Scarabicchi, E.Donadel (partner and associate in charge), M.Rossato Piano
Consultants: Favero & Milan (structural, consulting executive architect); Metalsystem (mechanical service engineering and construction)