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Skypump in Barcelona
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Wild + Wonderful Wind Machines

Wind-Powering the Body Electric 

Blow Wind Blow

Why you should care

Because if your global-warming guilt has reached critical mass, a wind-powered solution may be popping up at your neighborhood grocery.

Trade-offs are a bitch.

Electric vehicles put fewer pollutants in the air, but the electricity they need is generated using coal, which … puts pollutants in the air. While one-step-forward-one-step-back is fine for dancing, after the Solyndra stumble, everyone’s looking for a win-win that protects the environment coming and going.

And the Sanya Skypump could be it.

Wind power accounted for only about 2.5 percent of worldwide energy production in 2010, but it’s seen significant growth since then. In the U.K., for example, the electricity generated by onshore/offshore wind increased some 70 percent/51 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2013.

Minivan being hooked up outdoors during the day to charger

World’s first wind-powered EV Charger. This pump is located in Barcelona.

Which has spelled boom times for wind developers (yes, there is such a thing) who, despite proclamations of market uncertainty, saw world wind power setting records in 2013. Yet the naysayers still protest that wind is too intermittent to be a stable energy source, that turbines can be unsightly and that they pit different planet initiatives against each other by posing a danger to birds and bats.

But GE and Urban Green Energy (UGE) have ideas. A bunch, actually. First they’ve shrunk the turbine to a completely manageable height of 42 feet, which means it will only need a 7-mile-per-hour wind speed to generate the energy that gets stored in the electric charging station at the base of the turbine. So, for a modest fee, you pull your whisper-quiet electric vehicle to the base of the whispering urban turbine, and plug it in. Good to go.

Conservation isn’t just about changing what fuels the car — it’s about creating infrastructure that cuts out energy waste.

Already installed in Spain, new stations are being planned all over the United States and Australia starting, oh, right about now. Whole Foods Markets and UGE are partnering to install Sanya streetlights and the charging stations at the national grocer’s Third and 3rd location in Brooklyn. And with market forecasts for the next three years predicting that cumulative capacity for wind power will nearly double, that could put Sanya at the forefront of a wave of urban wind turbine design.

Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association in D.C. and a fierce proponent of gas-free driving, is pleased that the thinking has come around to the idea of “fueling our vehicles where they are parked, instead of driving to a special station to do this.” By his lights, conservation isn’t just about changing what fuels the car — it’s about creating infrastructure that cuts out energy waste.

And consumer demand for electric cars is on the rise, Wynne argues. ”The Prius is incredibly popular. It’s a mainstream car now, and the last figure I heard was that 6.6 percent of the cars in California are EV. And while electricity is a form of energy, it’s domestically produced and not a global fungible commodity.” Which means? “It’s good for the environment and the economy.”

Hooking our ride up to the spinning blades of a Skypump while we shop at Whole Foods or wherever just started making a whole hell of a lot more sense. So blow on, you crazy winds, blow.

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BW headshot of Eugene

Meet The Author Eugene S. Robinson

Eugene S. Robinson digs that which can be dug from the business end of culture cool + aims to look as stylish as possible while doing so. He also has a "sunny" personality. And, yes, you can keep those quote marks right where they are.

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