Is This Windwheel the Future of Urban Energy?

As Philly doubles down on natural gas, the Dutch want to build wind turbines they can live in.

How would that look on the Delaware? | Dutch

How would that look on the Delaware? | Rendering from Dutch Windwheel Corporation

Note to the next Mayor: outsource all green initiatives to the Dutch. Why? They’re constantly creating green-tech solutions with urban application that will floor you, whether it’s floating islands to combat Miami’s rising seas or solar-powered sedans. Or, just look at the rendering above from the Dutch Windwheel Corporation.

That marvelous (conceptual) wonder wheel is a wind turbine. It’s a sleek 570-foot version of those three-bladed pillars that stoically spin in Appalachian cornfields across Southwestern PA, proposed for construction in Rotterdam. Not only does it generate grid power (both wind and biogas), the structure would also serve as a hotel, a London Eye-style attraction and 72-unit apartment building housed within the inner ring. Forget embracing green technology. Try living in green technology.

It wouldn’t be the world’s largest wind turbine but it’ll surely be the sexiest. The outer ring will contain snazzy, smart-technology-equipped carriages that will raise tourists up to witness the Rotterdam skyline. And all those gripes you hear about wind turbines—that their mechanical awkwardness results in clunky, noise-polluting death machines for bats and our finer-feathered friends—are erased within this design, which is visually jaw-dropping and holistically sustainable. Here’s more from Smithsonian:

The turbine technology, dubbed EWICON (Electrostatic WInd Energy CONvertor) was initially developed in 2013 at Delft University of Technology, just 10 miles north of Rotterdam. It uses a series of tubes, to be strung along the Wind Wheel’s inner circle, that creates an electric field into which positively charged water drops are sprayed. Wind blowing through the wheel pushes the water away from negative electrodes in the tubes, creating resistance that can be harnessed as energy.

When Mayor Nutter took office, he announced his ambition to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the country. Nutter has expanded green space, made improvements to the sewage and storm water system, and fostered the growth of our biking community. But neither the symbolic LEED buildings at the Navy Yard or the dozens of helical wind turbines installed on top of the Linc have quite captured public imagination for green technology in Philly.

Here, the focus is less on generating power through green methods and more about tapping into the vast Marcellus Shale gas fields to make the Philadelphia region into a globally consequential energy hub.

But there’s no reason the city can’t pursue both tracks: sustainable energy and natural gas. Dare we try a Windwheel?

The lead architect believes the concept can be exported. But we’ll have to wait. The project is still in its R&D phase, although the design team says the project—and the technology needed to build it—could be in place by 2025, assuming all goes well. Start banking Philadelphia.

Dutch Wind Wheel Hotel

Power plant or James Bond’s next lounge scene?| Rendering from Dutch Windwheel Corporation