Giant PV duck energizes Copenhagen design competition

A team of London-based artists have come up with a unique renewable energy generator and storage concept for this year’s Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition in Copenhagen: a giant energy duck that covered in solar panels and equipped with hydraulic turbines capable of producing electricity 24 hours a day.

Designed by Hareth Pochee, Adam Khan, Louis Leger and Patrick Fryer, the public artwork proposal would also serve as an interactive and educational tourist destination while also celebrating local wildlife.

According to the artists’ submission, the Energy Duck is modeled on the eider duck, which is found in the waters of Copenhagen. The fact that the eider duck’s breeding habitat has been at increasing risk from the effects of climate change inspired the team to use its form to raise awareness of the local impacts of the global environmental threat.

Proposed to float in the city’s harbor, the 12-storey high sculpture would be constructed from a lightweight steel frame covered by a skin of both photovoltaic and dummy panels.

Some of the electricity generated by the low-cost, off-the-shelf PV panels would be stored with the help of water pressure created by altering the water levels inside and outside the duck, which would in turn power the hydraulic turbines to produce additional electricity. Flooding the duck through one or more hydro turbines would generate electricity, which would then be 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," the design team said in a statement.

Both the solar and hydro-generated power would be fed into the grid (as per the requirements of the competition) and the energy yield would account for 75% of that of a fully optimized solar farm on the same site, according to LAGI. At night the duck would be lit with low power LED lamps that change color, with the color pattern undulating in a rhythm proportional to the output of the hydro turbines.

In addition, visitors to the sculpture would be able to walk inside the duck through a honeycomb mesh of lightweight steel. Above would be the pattern of a mesh of PV panels in silhouette, backlit by light streaming in through the gaps, while below, visitors would be able to see the sea water rising and falling within the pressure storage tanks.

"Often the prospective negative environmental effects of climate change, brought about by excessive CO2 emissions can seem a removed and distant issue," the design team said. "Energy Duck frames the issue of climate change, ecology and the importance of renewable energy in a local context."

Design competition challenges public views of renewable energy aesthetics

Founded in 2009 by husband and wife Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoianin, the non-profit LAGI seeks to promote collective action on issues of global climate change, environmental conservation, air quality, energy infrastructure and sustainable development. Its first ideas competition took place in the United Arab Emirates in 2010. The winning submission, the Lunar Cubit project, proposes nine solar-paneled pyramids outside of Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City that would light up in accordance with the lunar cycle and generate energy for up to 250 homes. In 2012, the competition focused on New York City’s Freshkills Park project, once the site of the Fresh Kills Landfill.

While the initiative does not guarantee that the winning projects will be realized, it seeks to promote and support the transition to alternative energy by stimulating and challenging public opinion about what clean energy can look like.