As 40,000 people gather in Paris to debate climate change, some argue that it is essentially the powers of the western world bullying the developing world into cutting emissions and therefore halting said development. Unless an energy source is found that is cheaper and more efficient than fossil fuels it could be argued that these conferences are a waste of time.
The answer to finding a renewable and clean energy source may well come from 3D printing as a project for micro wind turbines from a collaboration between three countries will debut at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference (also known as COP21) at Énergies de la Mer, booth G28, from December 2-4, 2015.
The collaboration between Orange Silicon Valley, the Silicon Valley-based innovation center of global telecommunications company Orange; Lumenir, Inc., a Silicon Valley energy-as-service company offering low-cost, renewable energy solutions in developing countries; and Omni3D, a Poland-based 3D-printer manufacturer, brings together all the elements needed to create a renewable energy solution prototype with the long-term vision of making widespread adoption of wind energy a reality. 3D printing allows prototyping and optimisation of these small wind turbines to improve efficiency while mobile connectivity provides metering, monitoring and optimisation of performance.
Because of their size, micro wind turbines are suitable for both urban settings as well as easy shipment to remote locations around the world, benefiting the estimated 1.1 billion people who don't have access to electricity. Energy generated close to the point of final energy consumption also drives efficiencies and reduces reliance on fossil fuels. As a member of the United Nations Foundation's Energy Access Practitioner Network, Lumenir, Inc. is committed to radically improve the lives of the 1 in 5 persons worldwide that live in energy poverty today. "The kind of life changing impact we envision will come from business innovation, strong partners, and a focus on platforms and ecosystems rather than just a widget," said Bryan Silbermann, CEO of Lumenir, Inc.
To bring the first few prototypes to life, Omni3D used their latest 3D printer, Factory 2.0, which is designed to fabricate functional parts for industrial applications. Each segment of 3D-printed blade is almost half a meter high and was printed using durable ABS plastic with an internal honeycomb structure consisting of 93% air. Industrial 3D printing solutions are usually very expensive; however Omni3D made it possible to use widely available materials, driving operating costs down and creating an alternative to traditional manufacturing methods like milling. "Industrial 3D printing creates an opportunity for milling workshops to fabricate parts cheaper, faster and easier. Fabricating large ABS parts is a task that can be accomplished by only few printers in the world and we're happy to be a part of this project," said Konrad Sierzputowski, board member of Omni3D.
Distributed wind energy using micro and mid-sized wind turbines is likely to have a significant impact on the utilities landscape. The combined team's vision is to integrate micro wind turbines into an urban landscape aesthetically to blend both art and utility.