The first time I saw the QR5 was on Inhabitat last year, and ever since then, my thoughts have occasionally wandered back to its simple, elegant design. Now, in April 2007, this UK-based innovation is one the recipients of the 3rd Annual Bottom Line Design Awards. Pictured on the cover of Business 2.0, the QR5 is referred to as "The Personal Power Plant." The QR5 can generate about 800 kilowatt-hours a month in 13-mph winds and costs about $48,000. Back of the envelope-style, the payback is about 18 years. According to Quietrevolution’s designer, Richard Cochrane, prices will go down with volume sales and about 70-80 wind turbines will be installed in the coming year.
About the QR5:
Looking at the helix portion alone, the turbine is about 9 feet tall x 15 feet wide (but various different sizes are also in development). Here’s how the parts work: (1) three ‘S’ shaped blades are tapered to shed noise, (2) the vertical axis easily integrates into existing buildings and structures, (3) the helical design captures turbulent winds and eliminates vibration, (4) central compression spar, dependent on conditions, (5) the blades, spars, and torque tube are made of strong carbon fiber, and all moving parts are sealed to minimize maintenance, and (6) the direct drive in-line generator has auto-shutdown and peak power tracking, which is incorporated into the mast. The QR5 is expected to have a life of about 25 years, assuming annual inspections. Feel free to click on over to get the finer details on noise + vibration, connecting to the grid, and mounting in various applications.
I think it’s fantastic, but I do have one concern. It’s UK-based. Localization is the new globalization because carbon emissions have changed the rules of the game. If this thing is going to get big, and I believe it can, there must be US-based production. I understand Quietrevolution is working on their non-UK patents, so establishing an American presence may be the company’s next step. I hope it is, because I can’t stop thinking about it. That’s what good design does. It changes the way we see the game being played.
Green building articles abound, but it’s important to note the subtle differences in perspective, which may change depending on the writer’s geography. An article may give green building advice that doesn’t make sense in your geography. Take this Houston article for instance. It’s a good read. In Houston, the climate requires an innovative balance of green building techniques. Houston is hot and humid. I won’t say it’s the armpit of America, but it’s hard to keep dry in that place. Here are a couple examples of localization in green building.
- Passive Design – Houston architects suggest putting most of your windows in a north/south orientation because the east/west orientation draws too much heat into the home and doesn’t allow exposure to the cool breezes that blow from the southeast in the summer.
- Materials – Houston architects will building with metal, as opposed to brick or stucco. Metal reflects the sun, while brick holds in heat and stucco is prone to mold. Unfortunately, metal doesn’t work for all applications, so you have to balance and make trade-offs.
Rule: Consult a knowledgeable professional to pick the optimal green building strategy that effectively considers the ramifications of the local geography and materials on your site. It’ll pay dividends later when you actually start to occupy the building and use it. Pictures via Cameron Armstrong Architects, a Houston architectural firm with several metal homes in their portfolio.
Recently, in the Week in Review, I blogged about these twin skyscrapers becoming the world’s first commercial development to include large-scale wind turbines in its structure. As you can see from the pictures, Bahrain WTC towers have three, 32-yard diameter propellers that supply about 11-15 % of the buildings’ energy needs, or about 1100 to 1300 megawatts per year. The shape of the towers create an airflow tunnel through the buildings for improved energy generation output and each turbine will be suspended on a bridge connecting the buildings. According to BWTC designer Shaun Killa, solar panels available at the time of construction lost their efficiency due to the high Bahrain temperatures, so wind technology was the better choice for renewable supply. The turbines will be tested throughout the year and the building will open for business later in 2007.
The dueling towers are 50 stories each, with 34 floors of office space. When complete, the entire complex will include a shopping mall, including about 150-200 luxury brand retail sites, and a 5-star Sheraton hotel. In addition to having SMART features that include high-tech security and IT infrastructure, the building will use an environmentally friendly water cooling system. Via GE Eco-Business.