The winds of change 

Small scale turbines in urban environments will transform how wind energy is harvested

By Russ Cooper

Wind power could be the wind in the sails of the next generation.

Marius Paraschivoiu Magnifying glass

Marius Paraschivoiu

Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Associate Professor Marius Paraschivoiu and his team of students and colleagues are seeing the potential in the unseen. They’re developing small-scale wind turbines to revolutionize how we harvest wind power.

Their project involves designing wind turbines two metres in height to place on rooftops and on the sides of buildings throughout an urban environment. Zero-emission and requiring no power lines, two of these turbines will generate enough clean energy to power one household without electrical heating.

Currently, Canada produces only 1% of its energy from wind power, while Denmark produces 20% of energy from wind, Spain produces 13% and Germany 10%.

In a Jan. 6, Globe and Mail article, head of the Canadian Wind Energy Association Robert Hornung proclaimed his desire to see Canada reach Denmark's current level of wind power production.

"It's not a goal that's unrealistic, at least from the perspective of what other jurisdictions are thinking about," Hornung said.

Born in Romania, raised in Montreal and MIT-educated, Paraschivoiu explains that tall buildings in downtown environment are a perfect place to aim for such a goal.

"The speed of the wind is accelerated when it goes over a building, " he says. "The velocity of the wind is very important. We have very little control over that aspect, so we're just harvesting where we can produce the most in an urban environment."

The project, currently without a formal name, symbiotically incorporates three of Concordia's engineering professors. The first stage involves determining the level of wind flow around buildings, the expertise of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Ted Stathopoulos. When the potential is calculated, it's Paraschivoiu's job to figure out how to best capture the wind's power. Once the energy is harvested, it's Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Pragasen Pillay's role to convert it into energy.

Not limited only to wind, Paraschivoiu is also part of a team researching the possibilities of hydrogen energy. The project, Hydrogen Safety and Infrastructure Study for Hydrogen Powered Vehicles, involves four Canadian universities, five researchers, and is supported by automotive research and innovation organization Auto21.

Paraschivoiu speaks with obvious enthusiasm of the overlapping possibilities of many of these alternatives to traditional fossil fuels – possibilities that will ultimately fuel the future.

"It's possible to produce hydrogen with electrical energy. So, the turbines are a clean method to produce another clean energy," he says. "You can put small turbines on lamp posts, in areas close to highways… I think we're going to see small wind turbines everywhere in five years."


Concordia University