Electric Storm wind turbine, The South Bank

Update: March 2004: Electric Storm is finished.

A 45 meter tall wind turbine has been built in central London, as part of a temporary installation along London's South Bank, called the Shell Electric Storm. The turbine is designed to generate sufficient power such that there is a net zero enegy consumption by the whole installation, which runs for 4 months as a free attraction each night from dusk to 11pm. This comprises lighting reminiscent of "the Northern Lights", with the addition of mist and sound effects, and rather than being pre-programmed, the effects are driven by various environmental readings continuously made at the site.

The project is also backed by the DTI, as part of a campaign to encourage renewable energy.


Artist's Impression

Artist's impression of the whole installation

The Wind Turbine

Lifting the turbine blades - 12th Nov 2003

Turbine and the London Eye - 12th Nov 2003

Turbine and the Shell Building - 12th Nov 2003


The installation runs along the South Bank of the Thames, between the London Eye, past Hungerford Bridge, and Waterloo Bridge and beyond. The wind turbine itself is installed in the South Bank coach park by Hungerford Bridge.

Map showing location of the Electric Storm

The wind turbine

The wind turbine is a 225kW V27 model, made by Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas. It has a hub height of 31 metres, a 3-bladed rotor diameter of 27 metres and a total height to blade tip of 45 metres. The foundation design involves piles of 27 metres depth in an area with complicated ground conditions in the centre of a busy major city.

Installation Details

These details were provided by the projects press office - I've yet to verify them independently.


At the heart of Shell Electric Storm are sustainability and renewable energy. These are the themes that Shell Electric Storm aims to communicate and have also influenced the design of the project. Shell Electric Storm stretches from Jubilee Gardens, next to the London Eye, along the South Bank in front of the Royal Festival Hall and National Theatre, up to the IBM Building. Installations in 38 trees uses a combination of light, mist and sound, directly influenced by the prevailing weather conditions to create an effect reminiscent of the Northern Lights.

Power Supply

A 43 metre high, 225 KW wind turbine, located in the South Bank Coach Car park near Hungerford Bridge, generates the energy needed to power the show. This energy does not feed directly into the tree installations, but is routed into the Royal Festival Hall where it is fed into the National Grid and the energy needed to power the light, mist and sound show is drawn from there. This replicates the process that takes place on a wind farm - the energy generated by the turbines is fed directly into National Grid, from where it is taken to meet energy requirements across the UK.


The mature trees along the South Bank are used to house separate light, mist and sound units. There are single units in each tree and the system is designed so that if one unit fails, it has minimal effect on the overall installation.

Power, water and data reaches these units via trunking and piping placed underground along the Jubilee walkway. The power/water cables rise up from the ground into a box by the river wall where it rises up into the trees and is distributed amongst the tree at high level.


Three distinct types of lighting effect form the central core of the installation, achieved through an innovative and energy efficient design. These are called 'ambient', 'gesture' and 'hotspot'. For the purposes of the lighting units, the trees are divided into 10 groups. Each tree within the group has 10 different controls enabling sequential switching and giving the whole installation the possibility of creating a multitude of differing effects.

The lighting instruments, which are designed to be recyclable, low-energy, high-output lamps, are constructed and fitted within two collars at a high and a low level in each tree.


High-pressure misters, similar to those used in greenhouses and for agricultural purposes, produce a wind-borne micro-mist of water through a number of nozzles in each tree. The small size of these particles reduces precipitation to a minimum. To stop frozen water splitting the pipes and to ensure on-lookers do not slip on icy surfaces, the mist is inoperable when the temperature falls below zero. The mist units are controlled by three master pumps spread along the Jubilee walkway. The mist is operated by DMX controls which tell the mist when to turn on and off.


Shell Electric Storm uses an innovative sound system called Timax. There are a number of speakers positioned at different points along the South Bank. In some instances these are on trees and others attached to the nearby buildings. The speakers are strategically positioned to allow the sound to move around you as you are in Shell Electric Storm.

The sound is at 50db which is a little louder than ambient city noise. The Timax system, as with all the elements of the show, is controlled by the prevailing weather conditions. Anemometers and mini weather stations at various points along the South Bank collate meteorological data which then programme all the show elements to make an ever-changing 'real time' experience.

Street Furniture

Text relating to the issues around Shell Electric Storm - renewable energy and sustainable resources - are incorporated into the existing benches, along the South Bank throughout the duration of the show. These provide additional information and interest for visitors and direct people to the Shell Electric Storm website where they can find more information on renewable energy.


19th May 2003 (revised) Planning Application submitted to Lambeth Council
25th June 2003 Lambeth Council consults London Mayor's office on the planning application
16th July 2003 Mayor's office considers report on the project, and asks for more details
13th August 2003 Lambeth Council ready to grant planning permission for project
27th August 2003 Mayor's office ratifies planning decision
16th October 2003 Start of excavation for wind turbine foundations
12th November 2003 Wind turbine blades lifted into place
18th November 2003 Switch On, by Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
1st December 2003 1st Day of Advent - special display
25th December 2003 Christmas Day - special display
31st December 2003 New Year's Eve - special display
14th February 2004 St Valentine's Day - special display
Mid February 2004 Installation comes to an end
16th March 2004 Expiry of planning permission


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