Thanks to the same un Américain renewable energy firm behind Whole Foods Brooklyn’s wind- and solar-powered parking lot, the world’s most selfie-riddled architectural landmark, the Eiffel Tower, will now be producing a decent amount of energy on-site with a pair of vertical axis wind turbines.

Installed about 400 feet over the streets of Paris directly above the iconic edifice’s second level, the wind turbines are the latest in a slew of green retrofits to hit the 125-year-old Eiffel Tower in recent years including a LED lighting makeover along with the addition of a rainwater catchment system, a solar thermal array and high-efficiency heat pumps.

While another notable new addition unveiled this past October, a semi-terrifying glass floor located on the 1,000-foot-tall tower’s first level, isn’t environmentally sustainable, it can leave some visitors looking a little green if you know what we mean.

The wind turbines were installed as a joint partnership between New York City-headquartered Urban Green Energy (UGE) and Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE), the operating company of the tower since 2005.

When you think about it, the Eiffel Tower is the perfect world monument in which to install a pair of wind turbines. While the installation was no doubt challenging (it involved hoisting the turbines into place with ropes), engineers were able to discreetly tuck away the two UGE VisionAir5 units behind the World Heritage Site’s iron latticework frame, largely hidden away out of sight and not marring the tower’s profile. The turbines, which operate silently, are also painted in the tower’s bronze-ish hue to help them further meld inconspicuously into the structure.

Now, imagine installing two ertical axis wind turbines on other postcard-perfect, highly trafficked landmarks of French origin such as, let’s say, the Statue of Liberty. On Lady Liberty, they’d end up looking like the world's ugliest pair of clip-on earrings. How about Sacré-Cœur? Sacreblue!

Combined, the new turbines will produce in the ballpark of 10,000 kilowatt-hours annually.

While this is far from enough juice to keep La tour Eiffel’s lights on and lifts running, UGE expects it will be enough to offset the energy consumption of the commercial areas on the first floor of the tower, which, upon its completion in 1889, dethroned the Washington Monument as the tallest manmade structure in the world, a title it held until the Chrysler Building in Manhattan came along in 1930. To this day, the Eiffel Tower remains the tallest structure in Paris.

Attractions on the newly redeveloped first level that will be powered in part by the turbines include souvenir shops and the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant which offers a $50 “chic picnic" lunch. Described as “one of the most spectacular and attractive places in Paris,” the revamped first floor is also home to the aforementioned glass floor and a range of exhibits including a somewhat daunting-sounding immersion show “that will plunge you into the Eiffel Tower universe.”

Says UGE CEO Nick Blitterswyk in a press release:

The Eiffel Tower is arguably the most renowned architectural icon in the world, and we are proud that our advanced technology was chosen as the Tower commits to a more sustainable future. When visitors from around the world see the wind turbines, we get one step closer to a world powered by clean and reliable renewable energy.
Wait. Wasn’t the whole point that visitors don’t see them?

In addition to the aforementioned Whole Foods Market parking lot, other UGE-helmed solar and/or wind projects have been carried out for high-profile clients including Hilton Worldwide, Ford, BMW, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chinese Navy.

And to be clear, the Eiffel Tower isn't just a monumental tourist magnet (7 million visitors annually!) with no other purpose. Unlike another really tall World's Fair leftover, the Space Needle in Seattle, the Eiffel Tower's primary function is as a television and radio broadcasting tower.

Via [The Guardian]

Wind turbine photo: UGE

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.