These Wind Turbines Could Change Cities Forever

In December 2019, here at hubraum we launched the 5G Sustainability Award. We were on the hunt for an idea that was as clever as it was fundamentally optimistic: a product or service that could make the world a more environmentally-friendly place to reside.

So no wonder MOWEA took home first prize! The Berlin-based startup presented small wind turbines, designed to be attached to existing structures and generate energy renewably.

Fotograf: André Wagenzik, Jeschenko MedienAgentur Berlin GmbH, Bosch

MOWEA had already completed the concept and field tests by the time they began collaborating with Deutsche Telekom. Over the course of 2020, the two companies collaborated to tailor MOWEA wind turbines to fit Telekom Group structures, such as broadcasting facilities like radio towers or masts. The goal? To potentially cover the energy needs of base stations and other equipment (at least partially) in a climate-neutral fashion.

How did this idea come about? We spoke to Robert Johnen, a managing partner at the startup, to find out more.

Born in Berlin

“The idea was born at Berlin’s Technical University,” Robert told me over the phone. He explained it was the outcome of a research project that started seven years ago, aiming to answer the question: how can we reduce the costs of producing wind power? Fifteen years ago, Robert said, photovoltaic solar energy had been the most expensive energy source in the world. Thankfully, following a decade and a half of innovation and “efficient products”, that price point plummeted. Now MOWEA and Robert hope to do the same thing for small wind energy.

“Wind energy produced using large turbines is pretty affordable — but affordable small wind products are still the missing puzzle piece, and that’s a really important puzzle piece for energy companies in terms of the energy transition.” Why is this? Because Robert doesn’t believe wind power should be limited to large wind turbines in rural areas. He believes urban landscapes and industry have enormous potential to produce energy on the spot or in off-grid areas.

What makes MOWEA’s wind turbines so special?

MOWEA offers modular wind power systems. “This means basically instead of using a single wind turbine, we combine several micro wind turbines into one wind energy system.” This means customers can scale up or down: you could order one wind turbine or a hundred. He argues this doesn’t just offer flexibility, but allows for modern design, an economic price and easy transport and delivery.

As outlined above, it also allows for wind turbines in urban areas — areas which obviously have more space constraints placed on them than rural areas — as well as allowing industries to use the micro wind turbines, as Deutsche Telekom hopes to do on its radio towers.

Robert is especially excited by the potential a radio tower has for the project. “Basically, the higher up the wind turbines are installed, the better the energy production. So you want to attach the turbines to the highest possible point — this means radio towers are a natural fit for this.”

The bigger picture…

He argues it’s win-win, both for renewable energy and for the industries using radio towers: “5G development will mean more radio towers are needed worldwide. So the amount of radio towers will increase significantly over the next few years. The question is, what knock-on effect will there be in terms of the tower’s energy requirements? The assumption is that although the 5G antennas are more energy efficient, the overall energy need of radio towers will increase. But at the same time, we need more green energy. Arguably, wind power is a way to solve this dilemma.”

Robert’s enthusiasm for the possibilities micro wind turbines open up is infectious: he talks about his hopes that they could eventually collaborate with a telecommunications company to offer that company’s customers a green sim card — offering “green mobile data.” “Why not?” he says. “If we can offer an efficient energy product, green energy production — who wouldn’t want that?”

Clearly, the sky’s the limit.