Visitors to downtown Ann Arbor have been treated to a
striking display of night time colored lights this summer, as wind-powered Whirlydoodles have appeared on light
poles, and in parks and parking structures around the city.
Created by local inventor Timothy R. Jones, the Whirlydoodle
is a fully functional miniature wind powered generator that produces beautiful
spinning colors in response to the wind. With no batteries or cords, the
resulting color show provides a striking and memorable visual display of
prevailing wind patterns, while demonstrating the power and potential of alternative
Wind causes the Whirlydoodle’s blades to rotate, powering a
generator that produces electricity for the multicolored LEDs (light emitting
diodes) mounted on the blades. At low speeds, only individual colors appear on
the Whirlydoodle, which are followed by alternating colors at higher speeds.
Still higher wind speeds cause additional colors to appear and the lights to
become brighter, up to a maximum of about 30 MPH wind speed. An effect called
persistence of vision creates the visual perception of colors that appear to
change and blend.
Inventor Timothy Jones originally installed several
Whirlydoodles on light poles in downtown Ann
Arbor as a “guerilla” street art project to raise
awareness of alternative energy. A QR code attached to the windmills led to an
online survey where viewers could vote on whether they liked the Whirlydoodles.
The public survey response was over 95% positive, and merchants were vocal in
their appreciation of the mysterious Whirlydoodles in front of their stores. In
response, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has now officially
sanctioned their presence, and the Whirlydoodles have appeared in several other
locations with official municipal blessings.
Mr. Jones ultimately would like to create a larger scale
installation with hundreds of Whirlydoodles placed on a windy hillside to
provide a breathtaking real-time visualization of wind patterns. He is
interested in collaborating with environmental artists, alternative energy
enthusiasts, or meteorological scientists in creating “The World’s Largest Wind
Farm” to call attention to the power of wind energy.
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