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Renewable energy

Attractive renewable energy projects

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Alternative energy sources are necessary to reduce our carbon footprint, and some forward thinking people are making renewable energy projects attractive by using art, design and innovation.

While some people seem to think renewable energy projects are intrusive or ugly and not everyone likes the look of black solar panels sitting on their rooftop. Still others consider wind farms to be a blot on the landscape. However, these innovative resources don’t have to be ugly. Thanks to the Climate Council.

How art changes things

Most of us have seen attractive murals transform plain walls into works of art. So why not apply this idea to the bland, white expanse of a wind turbine tower? A community-owned wind-farm project in Daylesford, Victoria – which has around 1900 participants, many of whom are from the area – paid an artist to paint a mural representing nature. Mountain peaks surround the bottom part, while a giant female figure soars up the main part of the wind tower, as an eye-catching picture that graces the landscape. Better still, the money from the power it generates is given to charities.

Other colourful wind turbines can be found in Germany, painted by artist Horst Glasker in a variety of beautiful hues and designs. The brightest one is reminiscent of an old time barber’s pole, but with many glowing colours for the stripes instead of just red and white.

The cost of theme parks

While everyone loves theme parks, the cost of power for rides and other attractions is enormous. In the US – theme park heaven – Disneyworld in Florida realised they can save on the cost of the power needed to run their many attractions by installing a near-by solar plant with 48,000 solar panels. This could get really ugly, except for Mickey Mouse coming to the rescue. The plan for this solar farm reportedly goes in circles – three of them, in fact. These represent the famous mouse head and ears, thus fitting in aptly to the Disneyland setting. Disney has signed a 15 year lease to purchase the energy from it for their theme park.

Since a project completed way back in 1998 saved them 46 million kwh in power, it’s obvious that they use a great deal of this commodity.  In fact, theme parks the world over could surely follow their lead and save on their costs as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

Innovative design in shape

It’s not only colour that transforms drab objects, but shape. Solar panels don’t have to be rectangular shapes on the roof of the house. In Dubai, innovative design means that solar installations look rather like palm trees. Not only can visitors enjoy the shade while resting on the bench below, they can also charge their phone or get a Wi-Fi connection from these truly ‘smart’ trees. Since it is claimed that mobile phones will charge much more quickly when plugged into the smart trees, no one should be able to complain about their devices’ batteries running out of juice. Visitors to Dubai who have not heard about this innovation may be forgiven for staring at locals who plug their devices into a man-made tree.

Another amazing design in wind power technology is the wind turbine designed to look like a street tree. Instead of a windmill type attachment with three long blades at the top, each branch of the tree contains a smallish green device meant to represent the leaves of the tree. These ‘leaves’ have tiny blades that can turn no matter what direction the wind comes from and can take advantage of even a small breath of wind. And being so small, the blades turn silently. This approximately 9 metre high, wind turbine tree is found in north-west France but will soon be installed in Paris. Even though it isn’t very shady for a street tree, it’s successful for its intended purpose; to generate power.

Innovation doesn’t stop there

Another design innovation of a different type is the solar powered garage built especially for the owners of an electric car. It makes enough electricity to power the car and contains the charging station, thus saves using power generated by fossil fuels to recharge. Who knew a garage could be so clever, as well as looking good to boot?

Solar design innovation hasn’t stopped at cars. A solar plane recently proved it could fly both day and night on solar power, without using a drop of other fuel! While it can only carry one person – and the wings are longer than a Boeing 747 – it’s a jumping off point for further research and improvement. As far as looks are concerned, its design is slender and graceful due to a long wingspan. Those wings contain 17,000 solar cells, which are used not only to power the motors, but also to charge the lithium batteries that provide power during the night hours.

Go to sea on solar

Similarly, sea-going vessels can also use solar power to reach their destinations. The largest solar powered catamaran ever built has circumnavigated the world using only solar power generated from the 512 square metres of solar panels installed on its deck, which give it a wing-like appearance that is far from unattractive. These panels also power the two batteries below deck that weigh almost 10 tonne each.

People have used wind power for many years to power sea-going craft of various kinds.  When the wind stops, however, so do the boats – unless the tide carries them forward. It’s important to have another source of energy that can be used once the wind is no longer a viable source and that’s when solar power comes into its own.

These amazingly innovative designs are the forerunners of what is sure to come in solar and wind power. Every invention has a starting point. The ordinary car could never have come to fruition without the invention of the wheel – not to mention all those other small components that are so essential to keep it running. So it is with alternative sources of energy.  The good news is it’s the ordinary person, as well as designers and artists who think outside the box, that are working to save our world from the often ugly inventions that are nevertheless so very useful.