Electricity grows on trees

The idea for the Arbre a Vent, or Wind Tree, came to Mr Jerome Michaud-Lariviere in 2010 on a windless day in a local park, when he saw the leaves of trees moving slightly despite the apparent lack of a breeze.

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He created the French company NewWind and gathered a team of engineers to figure out a way to capture the untapped energy of gentle air currents.

They invented an 8m-tall tree made of steel with plastic leaves that activate a micro-generator when they spin in the breeze. The tree can be planted anywhere, from a suburban backyard to a traffic roundabout.

As opposed to big turbines that require strong air currents, the Wind Tree starts up with the lightest of winds, only 2m per second.

The company says that one tree can provide all the electricity needs for a family of four. Still in prototype stage, the tree is due to hit the market early next year.