The same mechanism that enables a dragonfly to remain stable in flight is being used to develop new wind turbines that can withstand gale-force winds. A prototype of a bio-inspired design by architect Renzo Piano is being tested now in Pisa, Italy, in partnership with Italian renewable energy company ENEL Green Power.
The slimline design has two blades, making it less visible than traditional three-blade turbine. That means it doesn’t stand out as much in the landscape (a common complaint about conventional designs in the communities in which they’re installed), but functions well in low-intensity wind.
The dragonfly turbine is made of lightweight, durable composite materials like carbon and polycarbonate so they can take advantage of even the lightest breezes, making them more versatile for a wider variety of settings.
Plexiglass panels in the blades make the turbines visually interesting, showing off the internal structure. When the blades aren’t turning, they align with the mast, making the turbine look like no more than a slim pole from afar. The prototype has already generated over 1200 kilowatt hours in two months, and mass production for the Italian market is expected sometime next year.ï»¿