If someone dared to build a wind turbine atop George Washington’s head at Mount Rushmore, imagine the squawking that would ensue. The unlucky scofflaw would face Congressional hearings. He’d get grilled by cable news hot heads. He’d probably receive death threats.
But this week came news from Paris that the French just put two big wind turbines on the Eiffel Tower. The turbines, installed by New York-based company Urban Green Energy (UGE), will create 10,000 kW per year, enough to power the tourist attractions on the tower’s first floor.
Now, France is not exactly renowned for its “Just Do It” culture. The stereotypical Frenchman would rather spend his days pondering his nation’s decades-long malaise than engineering a car that isn’t a total crapcan.
But unlike in America, where adding wind turbines to a national monument would spark a minor political crisis, in Paris nothing much happened. No parliamentary gridlock. No protests. La Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, the outfit responsible for running it, decided they wanted wind power as part of their project to remodel the tower. So they just…went out and did it.
It’s not as though the turbines are invisible, either. Even though the turbine blades were painted to match the color of the tower’s steel, they’re still the only spinny things on the entire structure. This makes them incredibly obvious, which you can see on this handy video.
This effort is part of France’s plan to cut emissions by 25% by 2020 and to get a quarter of its energy from renewables by then, according to Bloomberg. The country is focusing on becoming a leader in reducing carbon emissions ahead of the next UN summit on climate change, scheduled to take place in Paris later this year.
“The Eiffel Tower will be the emblem of the conference and the city of Paris is fully engaged in the plan to cut emissions,” Matthieu Lamarre, the spokesman for the City of Paris, told Bloomberg.
Urban Green Energy is a developer of distributed renewable energy solutions, including solar and wind installations, for businesses and government in over 90 countries.
“The Eiffel Tower was very interested in reaching sustainability objectives, and drawing attention to the substantial work they have done to improve efficiency of the Tower. We worked with their team to evaluate the feasibility of the turbines and figure out how to maximize their energy production based on the location. Many of our customers are commercial businesses who are interested in attaining other goals such as cost reduction, energy reliability, or meeting specific energy targets, so that’s something that really varies from project to project” Urban Green Energy’s CEO Nick Blitterswyk tells CleanTechIQ.
“As one of the top tourist destinations in the world, the Eiffel Tower installing a distributed renewable energy system has the potential to start a trend in its own right. This technology is hugely popular, it’s feasible, and it’s something that can be utilized nearly everywhere — our hope is that visitors around the world see the Eiffel Tower project and go home feeling inspired and more comfortable with the technology” he said.
France is also making a big push for geothermal energy development.
And here’s the thing: The Eiffel Tower is so much more important to France than any single monument is to the United States. A recent study found the tower is worth $531 billion to the French economy every year. If we were to try this here, it would be roughly equivalent to outfitting the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore’s Thomas Jefferson, and the Statue of Liberty with beer helmets. Heck, we can’t even build a single offshore wind farm without a bunch of plutocrats trying, and maybe succeeding, at scuttling it.
So hats off to you, French people. The next time you hold a ceremony to unveil wind turbines on a national monument – Sacre-Coeur, anyone? – consider hiring your new national hero, Larry the Cable Guy. Git ‘R Done!