During the Alternative Energies seminar as part of 100% Design, we caught up with two of the leading experts within the commercial field of alternative energy. Robert Webb from Quiet Revolution / XC02 and Christoph Behling from Solarlab Research + Design were explaining their design philosophies, latest projects and recent conquests in the world of wind and sun powered energy.
Robert Webb is co-founder of XC02 who are a design and engineering consultancy dedicated to reducing carbon emissions through renewable energy, low carbon technology and appropriate business strategy. In this case, Robert was talking about one of their main products which is the Quiet Revolution helical wind turbine.
40% of Europe’s wind is located within the UK and wind technology is one of the most cost effective alternative energy sources. One problem with wind technology is the large space which traditional bladed turbines take up. Robert and his team within Quiet Revolution have developed a helical wind turbine which is fully scalable to various sizes and designed specifically for urban spaces and buildings. The efficiency of the current turbines has been greatly increased due to wind tunnel testing, advances in software control and tweaking the physical design. Through complex computational fluid dynamics buildings can be assessed with local wind data and the turbines can be allocated and designed within the spaces with the highest wind speed.
Although the payback for this technology is around 18 years, as traditional energy prices increase, they will become more competitive. It is hoped that larger and more integrated turbines can be designed to provide significant power for entire buildings. Watch out for future developments!
Christoph Behling is the founder of Solarlab Research + Design. His fascination with the technology came from 10 years ago when he was mesmerised by the butterfly like appearance of a solar cell. Rather than take it upon himself to develop the technology for solar products and vehicles, Christoph saw the need to inspire people with solar technology. Boats and other technology were already being developed but these were ugly.
The most recent project designed by Christoph and his team is the Solar Shuttle which was launched just over a year ago on the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, London. The boat is powered by light and designed with light in mind. The beauty of the boat is intended to inspire people and stimulate change. Although solar power has a similar downfall as wind energy with a long payback period, increasing the value of a product through a unique and beautiful design is one way to increase the acceptance of this technology for commercial applications.
Future projects on the horizon for Solarlab include Olympic and Commuter boats for the River Thames, solar powered rickshaws and a possible solar powered mosque.
The future of alternative energy sources is in the hands of people like Robert and Christoph and it is up to them to inspire us and provide unique solutions for the future.