Almost Genius: Philippe Starck's New Wind Turbine

This might be the worst, most useless product Starck has ever designed.

Wind Turbine

We've been pretty hard on Philippe Starck, but, dammit, if he doesn't deserve it. Fresh from telling a German newspaper that he was ashamed of the materialism his designs represent, Starck just unveiled a small wind turbine for the home. Which just might be the most pointless product he's ever designed.

The Revolution Air, manufactured by Pramac, touts itself as a compact home turbine. With two or three blades, it's designed to spin no matter what direction the wind is coming from. (That's a novel, but not unheralded innovation; several companies have produced similar designs.) Prices will start at $3,500—cheap for a turbine

As Reuters reports, Starck explained the product thusly: "Energy should not be a punishment, we should create a desire [among people to produce it]." Meanwhile, RevolutionAir's Web site is flooded with city scenes, plastered with graffiti saying, "The future is in the air."

It's true micro-scale wind energy is actually in wide use — GE has invested in it and Google has checked it out. But plenty of questions have been raised about its usefulness in cities. (Some have even dubbed doodads like wind turbines as "eco-bling"—the green equivalent of a gold-and-diamond "E.G.O.T." pendant.) Many potential sites simply don't get enough wind to justify the expense of a wind turbine. The American Wind Energy Association recommends at least an acre of property for best use, adding that people in 47 states have installed turbines. Still, couldn't you make a far greener impact by simply weatherproofing your home?

The most ridiculous part of this whole thing, however, is Starck's involvement. Who, exactly, would care that Philippe Starck designed a wind turbine? Design-conscious urbanites, perhaps? Precisely the people who'd get the least use out of a wind turbine?

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[Via Jetson Green]

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  • marc glez

    Also Mr Kuang, you may have never been in Los Angeles, a metropolis of 17 million people were the wind rarely ceases.

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Alan---The fact that there are cities windier than Chicago doesn't actually address whether wind turbines are properly placed in cities. In fact, many many engineers have looked at wind turbines in urban applications and concluded that benefits don't justify expenses.
    @Jim--Obviously, site selection is important. And the point is that in cities and suburbs, wind resources are only rarely able to product the power outputs advertised for wind turbines. I have no problem with wind farms or smart wind deployments--But I do think that wind power needs to be seen for what it is, and what it isn't.
    @Lange---Rancor aside, I'm not seeing a whole lot of data to back your claims up.
    @Marc--That's clear. Cost is inversely proportionate to costs. But that doesn't change the fact that there's still no solid data about the performance of wind turbines in cities. I'll stand corrected when there is--but so far the data leans the other way. Until then, urban wind turbines don't look too different a child's pinwheel.

  • marc glez

    Mr Kuang, Your assessment of the most useless design by P. Starck only displays how clueless you are to the reality of product evolution. - When the rich spend money to get this expensive toys eventually the manufacturing cost will go down enough for the masses to be able to enjoy it.


    Mr. Kuang,

    Why were you chosen to write this article? Maybe you have an interest in design and an axe to grind with Phillipe
    Starck but you know nothing about wind technology. Hopefully if your editors have an interest enlightening the general public on current and future technologies, they will select someone with more expertise on the subject presented or at least someone willing to research the topic and present accurate data. The application of wind turbines (in particular, vertical turbines) on roof tops in an urban environment has been studied and documented to be a viable alternative to staying on the grid in many circumstance and the desire to make these attractive as they begin to dot rooftops is an important aspect to gaining larger acceptance by the public and community zoning boards. Your ignorance on this issue is appalling as is the fact that Fast Company gave you a platform to spew this blather.

    D. Lange

  • Allan Higgins

    Sorry for the duplicates. The web page was not giving any feedback indicating that it had accepted the "submit" button click.

  • J. D. Crutchfield

    The basis you give for contending that urban wind turbines are worthless was conducted in Great Britain, not North America. It appears to have emphasized propeller-style, unidirectional turbines, not vertical turbines like Starck's that can take advantage of winds from all directions. And it didn't conclude that urban wind turbines are worthless. It concluded that site-selection was important, but that properly-placed urban turbines could be profitable. Do your homework before you start trashing.

  • J. D. Crutchfield

    You guys have obviously not been downtown in Chicago or any Eastern city. This is a great invention.

  • Nathan Arico

    Since when does wind have anything to do with vast plains? Does the wind need a "couple acres" to pick up speed before it reaches your turbine? Is that how wind works? How about the many major cities worldwide that are on the coast, and as a result in the path of prevailing ocean wind currents? Or how about the home where I grew up in Casper, WY? My parents have less than a 1/2 acre, but I promise you the wind, especially in winter, would provide more than enough energy to power their home, and probably the whole block, which, as it happens, is in the middle of the city. Please think, or at least research, before you type.

  • Filipe Frota

    I don't agree. You're generalizing that all big cities in the world are not provided with wind.
    The concept is OK, wind turbines can be a nice piece of design. We need more energy generating monuments that could use either eolic or solar energy. Seaside cities could use that.