Adam Jan  /  AFP-Getty Images
The wind turbines engineered into the Bahrain World Trade Center in Manama are seen on Tuesday.
updated 4/9/2008 11:09:14 AM ET 2008-04-09T15:09:14

Taking architecture, and wind power, to new heights, developers of the Bahrain World Trade Center in Manama, Bahrain, flipped the switch to start three huge turbines set between two towers — a first glimpse of technology that they hope will power up to 15 percent of the center.

The blades, each about 100 feet in diameter, are the first to be integrated into a commercial structure, the developers said during their first demonstration Monday of the three in operation.

"We truly have pushed the boundaries of environmental architecture with this project," Ole Sangill, a partner in turbine specialists Norwin, said of the project. "It is a testament to Bahrain that private developers are investing in sustainability and pioneering design, which is certainly the future of architecture as it shapes the planet in years to come."

The trade center is a highly visible landmark in Bahrain, a Persian Gulf nation better know for its oil fields than alternative energy.

Atkins Architects, which designed the installation, said in a statement that the center's elliptical-shaped towers act as airfoils, "funneling and accelerating the wind velocity between them." The towers are next to the Persian Gulf coast, enjoying a prevailing onshore breeze.

Norwin, a company based in Denmark, where wind power is big business, plans to monitor the turbines to determine their full generation potential and said it expects them to operate about half the time.

The developers did not say how much the installation cost, but said it was just 3.5 percent of the total price of building the trade center.

Norwin is also working on integrating wind turbines into two other buildings: one in London, called Castle House, should be ready by 2010; and one in Dubai, called The Lighthouse, is set for 2011.

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