Canadian Consulting Engineer

Windy cities could be good

People often complain about the icy blasts of wind that buffet them as they walk around downtown areas, and a whole...

January 11, 2002   Canadian Consulting Engineer

People often complain about the icy blasts of wind that buffet them as they walk around downtown areas, and a whole science has been developed around mitigating the wind effects of skyscrapers on urban environments.
Now, however, researchers in Europe are looking at ways of increasing the wind tunnel effect between buildings in dense urban environments in order to harness the energy as electrical power. If the research is carried forward, we might see our cities transformed as buildings are designed in strange shapes and configurations as they are designed to funnel the wind.
The BDSP Partnership of London, U.K., the University of Stuttgart, MECAL, Imperial College London and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory formed a consortium funded by the European Commission to develop systems for incorporating wind turbines between buildings shaped to concentrate wind flow.
The researchers built a near-scale prototype on the European Energy Research Unit test site. It had two towers aerodynamically shaped, with three turbines placed vertically between them. The towers were designed using computational fluid dynamics modelling to find their optimum shape for concentrating wind speeds at between 2 to 5 metres per second.
The project was completed in 2000 and now BDSP is doing follow up research and developing a handbook on how to integrate wind turbines into the built environment. The advantage of having wind
power generators in the city is that they would provide power close at hand, thus obviating the need for long transmission systems and also appeasing the people who find rural wind power farms a visual blight on the landscape.
Another common complaint of wind turbines is that they cause noise, but the proponents of urban wind generators say that in cities their noise would be largely drowned out by the traffic.
The European Energy Research Unit has been doing research in other interesting areas, including the idea of having floating offshore wind farms.
According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, Canada currently produces about 136 MW of electricity through wind farms, enough to service about 37,000 average homes. The largest operations are in Quebec, which has 99,000 MW capacity in total at its Le Nordais wind farms in Cap Chat and Matane. Second biggest wind power producer is Alberta, with about 80,000 MW capacity. Toronto has the closest thing to an urban system, with its single 1,800-MW wind turbine that started turning last year in Pickering, east of Toronto.
The potential for this renewable energy source globally is enormous. Wind could, it is estimated, supply up to five times the world’s current energy needs.


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