The gizmo left is a polycarbonate plastic wind turbine by globe-trotting designer Phillipe Starck, who is now creating a line of "Democratic Ecology" products for an Italian manufacturer. Design is a lot like telling a story, and Starck is a master at spinning a tale:
"Imagine a Saturday afternoon, and a guy going stupidly to the supermarket to buy a useless gadget," Mr. Starck said. "He sees a really sexy object. 'Oh my God, it's beautiful. How much does it cost? Five hundred euros? That's almost what I'd spend on a useless gadget.' He brings the windmill home, goes to his roof, and 15 minutes later he sees it turning and producing energy. Wow!"
We have to admit that $1000 and 15 minutes to a wind-powered home is awfully enticing... but is it realistic?
Our physics is a little rusty, but the Swift wind turbine, which is larger, does not come close to the 80% of a home's power Mr. Starck claims in the NYTimes that his turbine will generate. An Engadget post on Starck's turbine has lower figures, citing a range of 20% to 60%... and a lower price of about $600.
So it seems like the technical details are still being worked out. We certainly find Starck's turbine better looking than the Swift—and we could see it being an impulse purchase the same way some people come home with huge new TVs. As for the claimed energy production, perhaps there's something going on with a super-efficient generation mechanism. (We're being a bit hesitant as we're still embarrassed by our uncritical post on the physically impossible Gravia lamp.)
Basically, Starck wants to create a kind of object lust for green design. We're all for it. Why shouldn't wind turbines and other green objects become objects of desire? After all, even the most rational among us have emotional reactions to things. But we don't see why it should be called democratic: doing so dangerously conflates consumerism and democracy. Perhaps what Starck has invented could instead be called—in all fairness—Sexy Ecology.
image via The New York Times