As part of its first major retrofit in 30 years, two custom-designed wind turbines have started generating power for the Eiffel Tower. Located above the World Heritage Site’s second level, about 400 feet off the ground, the sculptural wind turbines are now producing 10,000 kWh of electricity annually, equivalent to the power used by the commercial areas of the Eiffel Tower’s first floor. The vertical axis turbines, which are capable of harnessing wind from any direction, were also given a custom paint job to further incorporate them into the iconic monument’s 1,000-foot frame. At the same time they bring the image of the 1889 tower firmly into the 21st Century.
“The Eiffel Tower is arguably the most renowned architectural icon in the world, and we are proud that our advanced technology was chosen as the Tower commits to a more sustainable future,” said Nick Blitterswyk, CEO of Urban Green Energy (UGE), the U.S.-based distributed renewable energy company that installed the turbines. The publicity provided by the Tower’s seven million annual visitors might add some wind to the sails of the micro-turbine industry as well.
In addition to the wind turbines, the renovation includes energy efficient LED lighting, high-performance heat pumps, a rainwater recovery system, and 10 square meters of rooftop solar panels on the visitor pavilion.
There was no required renewable energy target for the Eiffel Tower’s facelift, but the project developers see it as a major landmark in Paris’ climate plan. The city’s plan aims for a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 25 percent drop in energy consumption, and for 25 percent of energy to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Paris is also host to the critical United Nations’ climate talks at the end of the year in which leaders hope to reach binding agreement to mitigate GHG emissions. The gathering is the most prominent global effort to confront climate change since the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks failed to reach an overarching consensus.
Last year UGE was awarded $77,000 by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory as part of $1.3 million in grants aimed at reducing the cost of small and medium-sized wind energy systems. According to the DOE, the funding aims to assist U.S. manufacturers in improving their turbine designs and manufacturing processes, which will help reduce hardware costs and improve efficiency.
“Advancing efficient renewable energy technology is essential to combating climate change and mitigating its imminent threat,” said Scott Van Pelt, Director of Engineering at UGE. “NREL’s National Wind Technology Center and the support of regional testing centers have been instrumental in advancing distributed wind systems, which provide a carbon-free alternative to conventional generators.”