Gallery: DEMOCRATIC DESIGN? Philippe Starck’s Designer Wind Turbine

 
Philippe Starck's 'Democratic Ecology' turbine

A few months ago, prolific product design star Philippe Starck shocked the world with his proclamation ‘Design is Dead’, and the announcement of his pending retirement due to his frustration with the ethical/consumption issues inherent to product design:

“Everything I designed was unnecessary… and I am ashamed of this fact”

While we completely understand the sentiment, we were a bit frustrated about this pessimistic proclamation and subsequent retirement from the world of design. One would think that the most helpful and sensible approach to the realization that one has been wasting one’s time producing useless crap (like uncomfortable see-through plastic chairs and scarily alien looking lemon-juicers that can’t actually be used) – would be to STOP producing useless crap and start putting one’s talent to use to try to make a positive difference in the world.

And despite the melodramatic announcement this spring, perhaps this is where Starck is headed after all, despite the threats of giving up entirely. Recently Philippe Starck has brought an amazing idea for renewable wind energy to life through a sleek new mini wind turbine called ‘Democratic Ecology’.

Philippe Starck’s personal invisible windmill ‘Democratic Ecology’ was introduced at Milan’s Greenergy Design show earlier this year in a vibrant display relaying the intent to enable every man, woman and child on Earth to generate their own power in designer style. The transparent mini-turbine will be available to all in September 2008 and, in typical Starck style, if everyone’s going to have one he’s going to make sure they all look great.

The turbine was on display in an twisted cube decorated with ecologically motivated statements, clearly designed to maximize the turbine’s aesthetic potential. Inhabitat was on the green scene in Milan, and can attest that the text and images looked fabulous viewed through the polycarbonate as it spun round. Presumably the transparency is a metaphor for the way Starck wants us to live: “Do we need so much materiality? The more materiality there is, the less humanity.”

The windmill can generate 20-60% of the energy needed to power a home, at a price point of around 400 Euros ($633). Not realistically within everyone’s budget, but by combining creativity and elegance with ecology Starck will hopefully encourage more people to take greener steps. And for those who don’t want their conservation pieces to be conversation pieces, a subtler version has been proposed.

The project was realized with the help of Pramac, a company better known for its petrol and diesel generator sets but one which has recently entered the renewable technology field. We can’t help but think that Starck’s latest design is a sign of his own transformation, marking the start of his new career as an advocate of sustainable design.

+ Philippe Starck + Phillipe Starck: Why design? on TED + Pramac

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27 Comments

  1. gary jacobosky July 7, 2010 at 3:39 am

    would like to know more, could the design be made with solar, so when wind not blowing it would still be producing

  2. A to Z Energy ETF &raqu... August 28, 2008 at 1:03 am

    [...] Phillippe Starck, a recent high profile convert to green thinking (dubbing all his previous work “unnecessary”) recently explained his [...]

  3. des.gartland August 13, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Dear Sir would you pleas send detals on you Winmile we are a Company bast in Ireland we are in the Renewable Energy Flow looking forward to hearing from you.
    Des Gartland

  4. alexisS August 8, 2008 at 8:34 am

    i think its great that people are starting to think along these lines….forget motive….hopefully we can start desiging products that can attach to reality…cant see this product being incredibly democratic in a low income home in South Africa….and by low income i mean R1500 a month for a family of four.

  5. nommo July 21, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Dale Vince AKA Zerocarbonista.com said this: “It’s clearly designed by a designer not a wind engineer- I think that’s the form over function thing. But with regards vertical versus horizontal windmills, there are some facts missing here. The blades on HAWTS are more efficient than VAWTs that’s true – typical figures are 30% versus 15%. But HAWTs have had more development time. VAWTs are emerging now with 25%+ efficient blades, the gap is narrowing. And you don’t need much height in a domestic situation, just above the roof – this supposed benefit of HAWTs is not. And last, don’t underestimate the negative effect on HAWTs of the fickle wind direction in urban locations – it kills them. In fact that downside of HAWTs outweighs their blade efficiency advantage, by a long way. The future for domestic or urban wind is VAWT. I don’t think it’s this VAWT here though, not to look at it any way. Cheers.”

  6. sluggo July 14, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Another Starck fantasy, in areas with strong wind there is a benefit, in areas without, very little. Areas considered to be a good location for wind turbines are limited. (Outside san francisco is already a large group and a company wanted to place them off Martha’s Vineyard)That said,this has to be one of the least efficient shapes for this purpose I have ever seen.(for example, see lemon juicer)

  7. katieT July 14, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    I live near the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colo. Armed with a pix of the Starke turbine, I talked to the wind researchers about it. We are located near the mountains and in an urban area with trees. In order to be even mildly effective, the turbine, in our area, would have to clear all trees and buildings by about 30 feet — i.e 100 feet up. And yes it would need an inverter to tie into the grid, or a bunch of betteries. We’d be lucky to pull 100kwh per month — a $10.00 benefit. Lots of years to pay it off. These vertical turbines are quite a bit less effective than the ones that look like propellers, which are the ones everyone is testing. From here, city wind is too fragmented by structures and trees to have enough power to justify the investment. In other words, this is a kinetic sculpture, not a real energy provider. Too bad!

  8. HeckSpawn July 9, 2008 at 10:53 am

    It looks as if he put more thought into the displays for his “democratic energy” than he did for the actual turbine.

  9. rubyred July 8, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    I dont know about you guys, but I did see it on the six o\’clock news today! Wind energy is the investment of the future. T. Boone Pickens talked about it tonight. In answer to drhall, I know of at least one company combining those technologies, but they are trying to keep a low profile untill they have enough product to sell. The technonoly is out there, you just have to do a little digging. For esthetic and cost purposes, combining multiple units make more sense than a single giant turbine. No one wants a twenty foot turbine in their yard. if you are truly going green, you dont want to do it for yourself. You want as many people to go green as possible in order to have the largest possible impact on the environment. If anyone knows how to get a hold of these turbines, or just how to get more info on them, please let me know!

  10. drhall July 8, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Great site … and everybody’s starck comments are just about spot on!
    1.) Plastic will have to be very much not polycarb, however, there are
    very inexpensive turbine blades using composite technology;
    2.) Starck is a master marketing guru and for him to be on board is not
    at all bad – with the caveat that he actually produce a working unit,
    for a price somewhere under thousand US dollars;
    3.)Produce much power? Absolutely – again, start turning off those damn
    heaters we call lights (90percent heat, 10percent light), turn off all the
    little demon power monsters that consume a good ten to twenty percent
    of modern electric only households (two kids, dogs, etc.) AND with a
    single wave of the hand, easily hook up ten of these gadgets to a single
    input/pure sine – down lines protection and viola!
    4.) More forward thinking people will come forward and perfect the imperfections
    in this scenario, like using inexpensive multiple units (WHERE there is
    enough WIND), manufacturing these things so inexpensively you can
    afford multiple units;
    5.) Suddenly, the exponential rules kick in – it works, it works better after tweaking,
    it’s a damn good idea! and more people join in the fun. Don’t forget, there is
    a thing called marriage of technologies, and the photovoltaic panel can shine
    even on cloudy days (new tech) so the few hundred watts of wind PLUS the
    very steady few hundred watts of sun, the solar heated/assisted hot water,
    the backyard garden, the 45mph EV in the garage and the Victory Garden
    (for those of us who remember saving buttons and buying those bonds during WWII)
    suddenly America can be great again. Really. Forget the oil and the traffic jams
    and the hundred mile hour jet around the city! Slow down, grow some green kahoutis!

  11. billdakelski July 8, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Unlimited household energy for about 5k investment? Right, this has got to be a hoax, why did i not see it on the 6 o’clock news?

  12. get_on July 6, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    This guy’s Having-A-Laugh! But then, I suppose there will be those that will fall for it! There may be many roads to the future’ but this is not one of them! Least way’s not to a greener future. Maybe a future for Starky with the potential bucks it could bring in from suckers who fall for the hype. This sort of foolish trickery should be legislated against!

  13. JunkkMale July 6, 2008 at 4:17 am

    Ain’t spin grand?

    Without that name attached I doubt it would have rated a column inch anywhere, nor indeed would we be commenting.

    But it does present an interesting, if rather worrying, insight in what that is ‘green’ gets done, and covered, that may or may not be actually worth a damn.

    I have to say that my initial reaction to his ‘conversion’ was ‘well, at least the profile of trying is worthy and if style will make ‘em try, why not?’, but then I looked at the thing, and the claims made for it, and started to wonder about the substance. And enviROI.

  14. Ruth July 5, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Philippe Stark, huh? Has anybody really tested this thing to make sure it works, or is it going to be some BS wind ornament.

    I have a feeling his “heartfelt” speech was very fashionable, marketable, and brand-right, indeed.

  15. picturethis July 5, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Philippe’s Stark’s designs have always provoked a mixture of contradictory feelings within me. He likes to play with any concept and turn it into a quirky visual joke. That can become tedious and irritating when. like me, you are more drawn to the purist Bauhaus concept of form following function. This time though, I see no reason to criticise the form of his wind turbine on aesthetic grounds. If Philippe S can turn a future necessity into a trendy and affordable must-have, and make us feel much better about relying on renewable energy, then I really don’t care how much money he makes out of it. I am concerned about whether the product will work – so if there are any wind specialists out there who can conclusively test and demonstrate the longevity and effectiveness of this design, and give it a quality mark, I would happily buy it.

  16. gerald July 4, 2008 at 4:04 am

    Looks like an other excellent example of eco-trash! The old master is still at it. The turbine is going to be exposed to lots of uv, humidity and severe wind loading vibrations. Any half decent engineer knows that unreinforced plastic (probably going to be polycarbonate with an acrylic coating) under these superb fatigue conditions is asking for problems. So its going to be just another totally nonsensical and wasteful product, nothing has realy changed.

  17. cmu July 3, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Have a more fundamental problem with this…aerodynamically, it would seem that the design is stable, ie it would NOT turn at all because of the opposed blades. And what’s with the little orifices? Would that not cause turbulence which is the major enemy of efficiency?

    Unless this thing is 30′ or so, it could not produce that type of electricity

  18. c1bob July 3, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Ozmosis,

    There is still the inverter needed to attach this generator to the grid. In the US these items are normally about $2k. Then there is the rate that your utility company will pay you for the power you contribute, sometimes it\’s only a fraction of what you pay for electricity from the grid.

    It\’s a bit of an incomplete solution.

    bob

  19. BlahBlah July 3, 2008 at 9:53 am

    I call Shenanigans.

    There is no way that that thing generates that much energy. This is just some bullshit designer throwing out sensational numbers.

    Realistically, the generator and battery system needed to actually use a windmill costs more than 700$. And seriously, if he developed this product WITH a windmill company, they would be selling this design too…which theyre not.

    Some of these “industrial designers” know absolutely nothing about physics or mechanics, and this is a great example. Go back to your retirement, you made another useless product.

  20. Design = Useless? | Lon... July 2, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    [...] the spirit of not doing anything useless again, Starck’s latest creation is a windmill called Democratic Ecology that was presented at Milan’s Greenergy Design. It can generate 20 to 60% of the energy [...]

  21. wlai July 2, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    before you bash starck, take a look at his heartfelt TED talk at http://www.ted.com. i applaud him for at least trying to solve the problem that he had a hand in creating.

  22. Ozmosis July 2, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    If your power company allows you to feed back into the national grib (like that recently started here in nz) then you have no need for batteries only rev-connect to the grid i believe is under $1000nzd… i am eagerly awaiting for these to be in full production!!

  23. whiplash July 2, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    So here goes Starck, now that he\’s made a fortune on status driven crap, changes course and stands to make a new fortune on \”green\” driven crap. He\’s basically traded one trendy cash cow for another and is sure to be praised for all of his \”hard work\” to help humanity. The man is brilliant.

  24. rstrohmh July 2, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Note that the price tag is only for the turbine itself, not for any of the infrastructure that you need to run a DC -> AC system. (Batteries, inverters, etc.)
    That’s the really expensive part of a residential wind-power installation. The turbines are relatively cheap.

  25. pmorain July 2, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Does anyone have any actual numbers on this? The price per watt is far too low to be even remotely realistic, and yet I wouldn’t take Phillipe Stark to be someone that would release vaporware.

    What is the wattage?? And how much does the install cost??

  26. pmorain July 2, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Does anyone have any wattage numbers on this thing? I keep hearing the price tag and the 20-60% number getting tossed around, and no one makes any mention that such a product appears to be ludicrously cheap. I\’m guessing that this product is being marketed a bit aggressively – I would be floored if a decent-sized house could have 100% of its power supplied by five of these things with a grand total of a $3,100 price tag. That\’s like a 2-3 year payback!

    I also assume that the original press release is extremely skimpy on details, which would make me think that the numbers they are leaving out are nothing they want to advertise. Any real information out there? Help me out.

  27. AvideDesigner.com July 2, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I don’t understand this man… Very good speaker (except in english, like me), but this products are often not interrest…
    Have you see the new project of Starck : the Starck Academy on BBC… xD >> http://avidedesigner.com/?p=604

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