If have plans to visit Copenhagen — squeaky clean Scandinavian metropolis where the streets are paved with happy — in the semi-distant future, don’t be alarmed if you chance upon a robotic-looking duck-monster (Duckzilla? The Quackren?) the size of a small cruise vessel lurking in the city’s harbor.
Not to worry and no need to cower in fear — this benevolent bird's name is Energy Duck and he’s here to entertain, to educate, and to create a whole lot of renewable energy.
Submitted as a proposal to the Land Art Generator Initiative's 2014 design competition seeking proposals for large-scale public art installations that double as functional clean energy generators, Energy Duck could be viewed a solar-centric spin on Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s elephantine Rubber Duck.
Sporting hydro turbines and an exterior almost completely clad in hundreds of shiny photovoltaic panels, Energy Duck, acting as a “solar collector and buoyant energy storage device,” is referred to as “an entertaining, iconic sculpture, a renewable energy generator, a habitable tourist destination, and a celebration of local wildlife” by its U.K.-based creators, a design team composed of Hareth Pochee, Adam Khan, Louis Leger, and Patrick Fryer.
The team’s decision to conceive a floating solar art installation in the shape of a duck wasn’t simply because the anatine form is playful, approachable, and elegant. Nor is it because by creating a floating installation, Energy Duck’s PV panels can easily pick up the sun's rays reflected from the water’s surface. As the project submission explains, the form of a duck was chosen deliberately as a comment on how climate change has adversely impacted the breeding habitats of the common elder duck, a large sea duck found in on the northern coasts of Europe and North America.
Now, you’re probably wondering if you can go inside the belly of this massive bird. Short answer: Yes, you would be able to, as the team has incorporated a visitors center within the structure's interior where the public can view Energy Duck at work. So then, exactly how does the floating sculpture work? How exactly does it generate and store energy and then distribute it to the grid?
Explains the proposal:
Solar radiation is converted to electricity using low cost, off-the-shelf PV panels. Some of the solar electricity is stored by virtue of the difference in water levels inside and outside the duck. When stored energy needs to be delivered, the duck is flooded through one or more hydro turbines to generate electricity, which is transmitted to the national grid by the same route as the PV panel-generated electricity. Solar energy is later used to pump the water back out of the duck, and buoyancy brings it to the surface. The floating height of the duck indicates the relative cost of electricity as a function of city-wide use: as demand peaks the duck sinks.
Again, Energy Duck is just a conceptual proposal submitted to a fantastic biennial public art/renewable energy design competition that, this year, is centered around Copenhagen, a deep-green city that’s striving toward complete carbon neutrality by the year 2025. As a site-specific work of art, Energy Duck and the other competition proposals would be installed (in this case, moored) at Refshaleøen, a former industrial site located directly across the harbor from Copenhagen’s most iconic work of public art: the Little Mermaid statute.
The 2012 edition of the Land Art Generator Initiative design competition, held in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, focused on Staten Island's Freshkills Park, future home of the Big Apple’s largest solar installation.
Head on over to the Land Art Generator Initiative blog to view other submissions in the 2014 design competition. The team behind the first-place winning submission, announced Oct. 3, will be awarded with a $15,000 cash prize.
My money’s on the duck.
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