The traditional huge horizontal-axis wind turbine cannot be deployed in cities or on the roofs of buildings. This necessitates large wind farms in less populated areas or offshore. The electricity generated must be delivered to the cities through miles of cables. Thus wind does not provide the unique advantage of distributed production like solar on the roof.
A new invention now makes wind possible – the vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT). The VAWT has a reduced size of a Christmas tree and no long blades. The other advantage is no need for constant adjustment to face the wind coming from a particular direction. The efficiency of a VAWT depends on the shape of the blades which can assume all kinds of smart configuration in order to realize the maximum effect of the wind.
A well-known application of wind power in downtown area is shown in the Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou, China (Architectural Record, March 2014, Page 94). This skyscraper has the strange shape of a gigantic smart phone. Invisible from outside the building, the VAWT’s are installed on the 25th and 50th floor (made by a company in Finland, http://www.windside.com). The building is oriented in such a way that it faces the southerly winds. In addition, the roof, and east and west sides of the building are equipped with solar panels to catch the sun’s rays. The whole building is intended to be self-sufficient in energy use.
Having a much-reduced size, the VAWT can now work side by side with solar on city buildings for electricity generation. Both possess the same unique feature of distributed production where electricity is generated and consumed at the same place. This eliminates the need for electricity to be delivered by a utility company or a central generating source. If more buildings or neighborhoods are equipped with such clean devices, it will render the city more self-sufficient in energy without relying on external supply and a delivery infrastructure.
We have already seen this kind of phenomenon occurring in personal computers (replacing the mainframe) and mobile phones (replacing telephone land lines).