Victims of the Walkie Talkie wind-tunnel rejoice: engineering boffins may have found a way to turn architectural oversights into eco-friendly power generation.
Nicholas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani, two master’s students at Lancaster University, have won the prestigious international James Dyson Award for their O-Wind Turbine – a sphere with geometric vents that spins when hit by wind from any angle, driving a generator.
The pair see it as becoming an urban alternative to wind turbines – designed for built-up areas like the City, where gales are often so unpredictable and extreme that the City of London Corporation has a specific policy framework to govern the wind effects of tall buildings.
In one instance, gusts of wind around the foot of the Walkie Talkie skyscraper (also known as 20 Fenchurch Street), became so bad that City chiefs called for an independent audit of developers’ wind studies. Its architect later admitted the building – also nicknamed the Walkie Scorchie after concentrated beams of light reflected from it burnt cars – had “a lot of mistakes”.
Giant buildings – a growing presence in cities around the globe – usually cause wind to be dragged down and then pushed upwards in unforeseeable directions, meaning conventional wind-based power generators can quickly become obsolete as their surroundings change.
Orellana and Noorani, who are from Chile and Kenya respectively, have already built a paper prototype, which successfully moves no matter what direction wind is coming from.
With a cash grant and support from Sir James Dyson, who called the O-Wind Turbine an “ingenious concept”, they will now develop their concept further, looking for suitable materials and investors.
Orellana told City A.M. he hoped to one day see the turbines “hanging off balconies everywhere”.