There’s a lot of reasons why most homes in America do not have their own wind turbines — high costs, permitting issues, and just plain aesthetics. But there’s a wave of entrepreneurs trying to change that, including James Post, who has developed the SmartWind RidgeBlaster and submitted the concept to GE’s Ecomagination challenge.
Watch the video (complete with music that would make the Techno Viking proud) below for a comprehensive description of the idea. It’s a wind turbine that stretches horizontally across the ridge of a gable roof, and has a diameter of 22 inches. The wind is meant to sweep up the roof through the turbines and the design is supposed to be able to utilize wind at any angle. According to GE’s materials on the concept, the customer would pay around $4,000 for a 1.8 kW, plus the cost of a 3 kW grid-tied inverter.
Post tells GE that “this is the first serious attempt to massively introduce residential wind energy,” and he wants to get his technology exempt from building permits and zoning requirements because of its limited impact, compared to other residential wind turbines. The 7-foot long blades are made of metalized polypropylene.
Post tells me via email that the RidgeBlaster is in the lab stage and the inverter is very close to a prototype (just waiting for some components). Post says once the company obtains funding it plans to build 25 units and place them under different conditions.
The problem with small wind turbines is that they deliver just that: small amounts of power. Another company WindStream Technologies is looking to daisy-chain a whole bunch of modular wind turbines that can stack together like Legos and line sides of buildings, highways and rooftops. The company plans to launch its TurboMill meter-tall wind turbine, which is about the size of a satellite dish, in the first quarter of 2011.
According to Pike Research the global small wind market — turbines of 100 kw and under — will expand to $412 million in revenue by 2013 from $203 million in 2009, delivering a compound annual growth rate of nearly 20 percent. During that same period, worldwide installed capacity of small wind turbines will reach 115 MW from about 49 MW in 2009, the study predicts.
About two years ago, there seemed to be a turning point for the small wind market, at least in the U.S. 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, and the technology also received support from cities like San Francisco and New York.
Today there are more than a dozen small wind players, including some more established ones. Two-decade-old Southwest Windpower is one of those leading firms, and it makes traditionally-shaped, but small, wind turbines that range between $600 and $3,000 per turbine. Southwest has raised money from GE, Altira, Rockport Capital Partners, NGP Energy Technology Partners, and the venture capital arm of Chevron Technology Ventures.
Another small wind firm that seems to be doing well is Mariah Windpower, a vertical axis wind turbine maker, which is backed by Noventi Ventures, Greenhouse Capital, BigSky Partners and the Sierra Angels. Founded in 2005, Mariah makes a slim, 30-foot-tall turbine with straight blades that spin vertically to produce up to 1.2 kilowatts of power. The company claims the vertical axis enables the turbine to spin more slowly – just two to three times the speed of the wind – making it quieter than the usual pinwheel-shaped turbines.