This post was written by Simon Mahan, former Energy Resources Policy Manager for SACE.Guest Blog | March 23, 2015
This post is part of the “Prelude to Paris” series highlighting updates and analysis on international climate negotiations in the lead up to the United Nations climate change conference – the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) — to be held in Paris this December. Other posts in the series are available here.
Paris, the city of lights, will now have a slightly greener hue to its lumens. Two small scale wind turbines were recently erected on the Eiffel Tower and avoid several of the pitfalls of the “Turbine Tree” that is planned to be installed in Paris later this year. For example, the two turbines are installed on the Eiffel Tower some 400 feet up – meaning they will capture stronger winds and produce more electricity. The turbines also match the Tower’s color and likely won’t attract additional bird attention.
But the turbines are still very small. The two should be able to produce just about enough power for the Tower’s first floor (or about as much as an average American home). Based on the turbine specifications, each of the 3.2 kilowatt turbines would be expected to achieve an 18% capacity factor with average annual wind speeds of approximately 20 miles per hour (9 meters per second). Alternatively, a utility-scale wind turbine could generate enough power for nearly 600 homes with capacity factors reaching nearly 100% in a similar wind regime (meaning the utility-scale wind turbine would nearly always be generating at maximum potential).
So why do we care about small wind turbines in France?
Interestingly, new wind turbines and the Eiffel Tower have several attributes in common. For example, when the Eiffel Tower was first proposed, it was vehemently opposed as being too tall and ugly, much like some wind farms today. Ultimately, the Eiffel Tower was built and it has become a point of pride for the Parisians, as well as a major tourist attraction. Similarly, some wind farms have also become icons in their community, and some wind farms have also become tourist attractions.
Paris’ sustainability efforts are also of interest due to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference later this year. This meeting, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) will be a very important event for international climate action, as it is perhaps the last chance to set clearly defined, and potentially legally-binding climate goals, before the world locks in the 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) warming threshold that was agreed to in the Copenhagen negotiations in 2009. In the months leading up to the Paris COP, nations from around the world will submit their proposals on how they intend to contribute to averting catastrophic global warming. Switzerland was the first nation to release its proposal and we will likely see many other highly developed countries submit their plans next week, while plans from lesser developed countries will come later in the year.
With the world’s attention on Paris later this year, wind turbines atop the Eiffel Tower should represent symbols of hope, power, and a promising future ahead.