The grand vision of small scale wind involves plunking tiny turbines (100 kilowatts or less according to the American Wind Energy Association) in backyards or on top of buildings in order to bring distributed clean power closer to the source that’s using it. Well, that’s the idea. Hampered by the cost of the technology and the difficulties of installation, however, the industry makes up less than one percent of the overall wind market. Now a group of investors including GE are trying to help grow that market, and this morning have announced a $10 million investment into Southwest Windpower, one of the more established residential wind system makers.
Flagstaff, Ariz.-based Southwest Windpower has been selling its small-scale wind hardware for two decades, and the company says it’s already sold more than 100,000 of the turbines. The company sells its gear through dealerships (many can be found in California) with prices ranging from $600 to $3,000 per turbine. We posted a video of one of Southwest’s turbines in the urban Mission district of San Francisco.
Southwest’s latest round also included funds from the company’s current investors, including Altira, Rockport Capital Partners, NGP Energy Technology Partners, and the venture capital arm of Chevron Technology Ventures. The wee wind maker says it will use the money to grow its sales footprint, including distribution in Europe and Asia, as well as continued development of its residential wind system called Skystream.
Investors like GE and Southwest’s other backers have been encouraged recently by federal and local funds flowing toward small-scale wind. In October, the U.S. Congress passed federal tax credits of up to $4,000 for small-wind systems, a major win after a 23-year hiatus in small-wind incentives. The stimulus package allocated $872 million over 10 years for distributed clean energy generation, with tax credits for things like small windmills. And the technology also has received support from cities like San Francisco and New York.
Southwest is one of the more established players, and its Skystream product is actually one of the more traditional on the market, and an influx of new player with innovative technology are starting to appear, including: Quiet Revolution, Renewable Devices, Marquiss Wind Power, Emergya Wind Technologies and France Eoliennes. Mariah Power, a company with a small vertical-axis turbine, raised its second round of funding from Noventi Ventures, Greenhouse Capital, BigSky Partners and the Sierra Angels late last year.