It is difficult to think of this now, but when the Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889, many considered it to be an eye sore. The novelist Guy de Maupassant hated the tower so much that he went to its restaurant every day, because it would be the only place in Paris from where he could not see the Eiffel Tower! The structural marvel that it is, the iconic “Iron Lady of Paris” is now the most-visited paid monument in the world.
The secret to the sparkling beauty of the tower is the use of 20,000 bulbs which light it up every night for ten minutes every hour. Apart from the “sparkling light,” the tower uses several 5 kW Xenon lamp which add the golden background to the sparkle. Of course, this comes at the cost of a huge energy bill. The monument consumes 7.8 million kWh of electricity every year, which includes 580,000 kWh/year for lighting alone and 705,000 kWh annually for HVAC.
As part of its two-year redevelopment program, the Eiffel Tower Operating Company (SETE) had commissioned the French Moatti-Rivière architecture firm to both redevelop the tower aesthetically and to improve its sustainability.
It has been widely reported that four vertical wind turbines have now been installed on the tower. While wind turbines are sometimes frowned upon for spoiling historical aesthetics, the generators in this case will not be visible from the ground or change the tower’s famous silhouette. Also, they would be using helical blades which are said to be noiseless. The wind generator would produce 8,000 kWh/year.
What is more interesting is the use of water turbines, which have been integrated into the water distribution network. This is expected to generate another 4,000 kWh/year.
Four solar panels on the roof of one of two renovated buildings will provide about 50% of the hot water used on the monument, mostly in the restaurants and restrooms on the first floor. Rainwater is also being harvested for use in the restrooms.
While the onsite clean energy generation is minuscule, to be fair, given the space constraint and aesthetics, it would be a tough job to do much better. One would need to install a not-so-small 9 MW solar power plant in Paris to meet the Eiffel Tower’s energy consumption. SETE has, however, signed up for a green electricity contract so that 100% of the electrical energy is provided by renewable energy sources.
Maupassant opens up his novel La vie errante (Lassitude) as such: “I left Paris and France itself, because the Eiffel Tower bothered me too much.” But, for the 7.5 million tourists who are charmed by the Eiffel Tower every year, it will now serve as a giant billboard for energy efficiency and clean energy.
Image: Eiffel Tower at night via Radoslaw Maciejewski / Shutterstock.com
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