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Energy Answer--Blowing in the Wind

Big wind projects announced for New York Trade Center site, offshore generation in Great Britain

4 min read

It will come as no news to IEEE Spectrum readers that wind energy has been the fastest-growing part of power generation in recent years. Two recent developments, however, put the outlook for wind in a whole new perspective. On 18 December, British authorities issued contracts to build 15 huge offshore wind farms, to provide most of the added electricity England will need in the coming two decades. And almost simultaneously, New York City officials unveiled a concept for putting an array of wind turbines atop the Freedom Tower, the main new building to be erected later this year on the World Trade Center site.

The idea for the Freedom Tower is to put about 25 turbines into a cagelike structure at the top of the building, between the main body of the structure and its TV and radio antenna, a combination intended to vaguely echo the Statue of Liberty [see artist's conception, " Turbine Tower"]. There also is some notion, inspired by Tibetan Buddhism, of incorporating cylinders containing mantras or prayers written on thin paper into the turbine systems. Perhaps this could be of some comfort to September 11 survivors, who have complained that designs for the site have been impersonal and have not included relics from the downed towers.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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