John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The bladeless "Windwheel" would have a hotel and an odd kind of roller coaster.
Medium-level boosters of ecofriendly living might power their homes with residential wind systems. But for those who want to go all the way, nothing screams "green" more than using wind turbines and residing in one, too.
Making this sustainable habitat is the dream of the Dutch Windwheel Corporation, a group of Rotterdam companies that wants to install homes on a big, bladeless turbine. Though not the most curious windmill concept out there (that distinction goes to Berlin's hydra-headed monster), it certainly is bizarre on a number of fronts. Foremost, the appearance: Shrouded in fog and pink light in the above rendering, the Windwheel looks like a mix of a supervillain's lair and the Eye of Sauron —not exactly the thing you'd want to move the kids into. It would also be partially submerged in the Rotterdam port, like an alien Frisbee spiked in mud.
But the most eyebrow-raising feature is what's happening in the outer of two rings. Forty cabins mounted on rails would swoop visitors around the turbine while screens play a "history of the Dutch water management" system. Call me jaded, but this sounds like the rare roller coaster people don't want to ride again, from boredom.
Housing and amenities would go into the inner wheel, with 160 planned hotel rooms, 72 apartments, a restaurant, and a panoramic deck. And at the center of the structure would be the motionless "turbine," which looks like it's modeled on those 1980s-style "Shutter Shades." The Windwheel people explain:
One of the innovations that can be developed with the Dutch Windwheel is the EWICON ( Electrostatic WInd energy CONverter) technology. This technology was developed by a consortium including the TU Delft and Wageningen University in the context of government innovation program. This pioneering wind turbine converts wind energy with a framework of steel tubes into electricity without moving mechanical parts. Result: less wear, lower maintenance costs and no noise or moving shadow. This makes the Dutch Windwheel the most innovative 'windmill' in the world.
Though it might seem this project could never get off the ground, the Windwheel folks claim "talks are already in full swing" to build it. They predict more than a million tourists will arrive each year to gawk at the mighty discus, pumping cash into the local economy. Given the spectacle images, that could be true: