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EWEA's Opinion, News

London’s new Electric Razor is where the future meets the wind

07.04.2010

Only a short time ago the idea of wind turbines becoming an integral part of  residential tower construction would have been relegated to the overly imaginative realm of science fiction.

Yet soon in southeast London a new 147 metre high residential and retail building will boast three wind turbines that are expected to generate 8% of the 43-floor tower’s electricity requirements.

Commonly called the Electric Razor because of its futuristic design, the skyscraper’s real name is the Strata Tower and it is reportedly the first building in the world with wind turbines built directly into its fabric.

The iconic building cost about €130 million and is expected to house more than 1,000 people in 408 homes. Its successful completion will also prompt developers to speed up their efforts to become more eco-friendly while complying with British regulations requiring all new structures to be zero-carbon by 2019.

Designed by Hamiltons Architects, the tower’s three wind turbines are to be erected at the top of the building where robust wind speeds are significantly higher than at street level. To reduce noise, the 19 kW turbines will each have five blades that will be nine metres in diameter. Anti-vibration measures are also being incorporated.

“Unlike a conventional turbine standing in a field, the three in the Strata tower are expected to use the Venturi effect — think of wind being forced between two large buildings — to suck wind in from many angles and accelerate it through the tubes,” according to a recent report in The Guardian.

The newspaper added that in addition to generating a predicted 50MWh annually, the turbines will also generate an estimated 18,000 to 19,000 Euros annually through the government’s new feed-in tariff which was to begin 1 April.

The Guardian noted Justin Black, director for Brookfield, the developer, said the decision to choose wind was a “conscious decision to experiment” and that the entire southern facade of the building would have had to be covered in solar photovoltaics to generate the same amount of energy.

“The brief we gave to Hamiltons Architects was we wanted a statement, we wanted to create benchmarks for sustainability and urban living. We wanted something bold, we wanted remarkable,” Black was quoted as saying.

In addition to the wind turbines, the high-profile tower in the Elephant and Castle area embraces other forms of green technologies and energy efficiencies that combined may result in energy bills being up to 40% lower than the British average.

Unlike breathless predictions of personal rocket packs, time traveling and the paperless office, the idea of wind turbines being erected at the top of massive steel and concrete towers is now a reality.

Using data gained from Europe’s rapidly growing onshore and offshore wind power sector, developers, architects and governments are now incorporating urban emissions-free wind power as a solution to meeting energy requirements while mitigating climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.

The future has indeed arrived and wind energy is at its forefront.

By Chris Rose

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