Windmill Street Art Raises Alternative Energy Awareness

| 9/4/2012 12:26:18 PM

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 energy.

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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