Eco-entrepreneurs Bringing Wind Power Down To Earth

Published on April 18th, 2008 | by Paul Smith

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Bringing Wind Power Down To Earth

There’s been a lot of energy behind wind power these days, with talk of larger and more dramatic installations every week. But this may leave you wondering, what does it have to do with me? Would I ever want one of these giant towers in my backyard or on my business? Noble though the idea is, for many, this is not an appealing or feasible option, due to space limitations or code restrictions. But then you may wonder, would a micro turbine make a notable dent in my energy needs?

Last week while at the Green California Summit, I saw a beautiful and practical solution to this: Helix Wind. With its elegant, rippled white shape, and the ability to work with any wind greater then 4.5 mph, requiring only 14 feet in height, these turbines bring it all home, literally.

helix vertical blade wind turbineHow much power do they bring? 1KW for personal, 2KW for businesses, enough to meet as much as half your energy needs. There’s no need to have a battery to store the power generated as in solar panels, as “net metering,” or power metering that accounts for energy put back into the grid as well as what’s used, can be used as credit towards your energy costs.

There are many micro turbines out there, but none has the unique undulating helix form of this. So? Beyond being aesthetically interesting, this enables it to catch air from any direction, more efficiently, with less needed. The unique shape apparently is also, they claim, completely safe for birds – one of the stumbling blocks to greater implementation of such devices. Silencing other critics is the fact that it’s, well, silent in operation.

Now what about cost, rebates? While not yet as prevalent as the ones for solar (have a look at the DSIRE site for a fine resource for local, state, and federal renewables incentives of all sorts) there are some generous ones happening right now. For example, the Emerging Renewables Program in California gives $1.50-$2.50/watt on systems, up to 30 KW. That’s thousands even for the smallest of Helix Wind’s systems.

To see them in action, have a look at this, below:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/q9flSPAdOLk" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

So, is wind right for you or your business? With systems such as Helix Wind’s, it’s looking more and more so every day.

Readers: What’s been your experience with wind power? Have any suggestions, hints, tips, products you like? Please share, below.

Additional resources:

Take your Business Off-Grid, or Become a Net Producer of Energy: Learn How at the MREA’s Renewable Energy Fair

Top Five Micro Wind Turbines

Wind Boom Creates Rural Jobs in Texas




About the Author

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media. Who he has and wants to work with includes consumer, media, clean tech, NGOs, social ventures, and museums. For more on GreenSmith Consulting, see www.greensmithconsulting.com He also writes for Triple Pundit www.triplepundit.com



  • Fakebot

    “With systems such as Helix Wind’s, it’s looking righter every day.”

    Righter?

  • Richard

    I love how the very first and only thing on the mind of anyone talking about the cost of renewables is how to bilk the taxpayer for them! Go ahead, cheat, steal and scam. Bunch of thieving scummy wankers.

  • Mike

    They produce only 1 kW for home use? Let’s see… if the average home has 100-amp service, multiply by 110 Volts, that’s 11 kW… even given that a home is not going to use that much power except in peak situations, I can’t see this making that much of a dent in the electric bill, especially considering the cost of the system.

  • Re: Fakebot

    Reread the first sentence: “So, is wind right for you or your business?”

  • Nadeem

    Richard,

    Meanwhile, apparently you are fine with all the subsidies the oil companies get? Do some research and get your head out of your a$$.

    Speaking of scummy wankers, maybe you should give a rest.

    Have a nice day.

  • Mike

    “They produce only 1 kW for home use? Let’s see… if the average home has 100-amp service, multiply by 110 Volts, that’s 11 kW… even given that a home is not going to use that much power except in peak situations, I can’t see this making that much of a dent in the electric bill…”

    According to my bill, I average 24-26kWh/day, which if I understand that right, it’s about 1000W (1kW) per hour. Agreed it wouldn’t run the oven or the central air…but those aren’t on 24×7, so it would even out. I think 1kW back into the grid would definitely make a dent!

  • Jeff

    Richard muttered, “I love how the very first and only thing on the mind of anyone talking about the cost of renewables is how to bilk the taxpayer for them!”

    Richard, what do the following things have in common?

    Height, power output, minimum wind requirement, shape/aesthetics, net metering, and silent operation.

    Answer: They were all mentioned in the article before anything about tax credits. And before you blow out another gust of angry, politically-motivated wind, note that net metering is a topic also related to the practical costs of harnessing wind energy.

    So…first thing? Nope.
    Only thing? Nope.

    Get your facts straight (and lose the childish name-calling), and perhaps people will at least take seriously your political concerns.

    Love,
    Jeff

  • Jonathan

    Fakebot,

    I thought he said “brighter” which would make more sense :).

  • William Bennett

    1kW at peak wind is close to useless for most households. Anything on a 14 foot tall tower isn’t going to give a reliable enough energy flow without batteries for much of anything, unless you have it located on the top of a cliff on the coast of Newfoundland.

  • http://www.helixwind.com Ian

    This is Ian, I’m the CEO of HelixWind, maybe I can provide some clarification to some of the comments.

    First, the systems don’t rely on taxpayer incentives to be economically viable. At 7m/s average annual wind speed, $0.15/KWh average electricity cost and mounted at 30 feet the turbine will payback in 15 years or less. That’s a conservative estimate and assumes we don’t see a huge spike in utility prices and that you only have the minimum of wind. Anything above is gravy and shortens payback times.

    Second, an average American house uses 10,000 KWh/year of electricity. A good energy efficient home uses 4-6,000 KWh/yr of electricity. Our residential 1kW system installed with 7m/s average wind produces about 2,000KWh/year of electricity. You can install them in arrays if needed, so the output can add up over the course of a year, if you’ve got the wind available.

    Third, wind turbines aren’t a silver bullet, they don’t solve all problems, they are good applications under specific conditions to help solve some of the problems we’re facing in the world. If you have those conditions, then this is a good solution, if you don’t it’s not, but we need a toolbox of different solutions to work on the problems that face us, this is merely one of them…

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  • http://ecopreneurist.com Paul Smith

    Wow, some heated discussion there! Thanks Ian for your input and clarification on this.

    That said, are there any actual wind turbine owners out there who can share their experience with wind power? Have any suggestions, hints, tips, products you like?

  • NIk

    As an energy researcher, my prior research shows a typical American consumes about 2.5kWh on average, with 10-12 kw peaks, so a 1KW turbine would offset a good amount of grid power demand.

  • Tracy

    No one is being bilked. If you don’t agree that tax policy should be used by YOUR elected representatives to incent tax payers to use less fossil fuel energy then engage in the political process. I’m sure they’ll be happy to listen to your pithy argument that we should as a nation continue down our present path.

  • John Frederick

    So how much is the dang thing?
    Can one install as a dyi? or is a contractor needed.?
    Thanks

  • http://www.ecopreneurist.com Paul Smith

    Excellent question! On the Products page it would seem to be the place to list it, but it’s absent. Here, from the discussion about the article on reddit, is what the CEO said:

    “Currently, small wind is about 1/2 the cost of solar (HelixWind is $3.33-$4.00/watt installed, solar is about $7.95/watt installed). After rebates, in California, HelixWind is $1.66-$2.33/watt installed, solar is about $4.25. That being said, the cost of solar (and also with small wind) will likely decrease in the future as production capacity comes online. For solar there is a global silicon shortage which makes price drops unlikely for at least another year unless a different manufacturing tech comes online. Small wind doesn’t face the same materials shortages. However the big differentiator between the two technologies, which often goes unspoken, is the footprint. A HelixWind 5kW rated system has a footprint of 6 sq. ft. or so, the equivalent solar system requires 750 sq. ft., which can create permitting and siting difficulties when you get to arrays that large.”

    That, and all the rest, are at http://reddit.com/info/6g9rg/comments/

    Ian (the CEO) seems like an friendly enough guy. I’d just write and ask. And perhaps encourage them to post prices. It’s been asked a few different times, here, on reddit, on digg…

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  • http://www.green-talk.com Anna

    When I was researching a vertical residential turbine, the issue that came up constantly was the height of the turbine. Wind experts were citing a physics argument as to why this particular turbine would not work as stated. In addition, they told me lower speed winds did not seem to amount to much energy being produced. Both my experts cautioned me to obtain third party verification of output and energy produced.

    I would be curious what Ian’s answer would be to their arguments. Anna http://www.green-talk.com

  • http://www.helixwind.com Ian

    Hi Anna, you raise excellent points and in fact anyone considering buying a small wind turbine should make sure that the output has been independently verified by a third party. We have done this to confirm the efficiency of our turbines (see the video to be posted shortly on YouTube and our website). What you find when you look across the small wind turbine spectrum is that all of them fall within a fairly narrow range of efficiency, about 7 percentage points overall. The biggest contributor to annual output is the amount of swept area (amount of blade area intercepting the wind) that can be attached to the generator at any given mounting height, and of course, average annual wind speed.

    Your experts are also right about there not being much power produced at low wind speeds, however this has little to do with the Helix design and more to do with the physics of the amount of power available in the wind. You need at least 7m/s average wind speed at hub height for Helix units to be worthwhile (assuming you’re paying $0.15/kWh or more). Below that our product just isn’t a good investment for you. If anyone is claiming they can generate significant power below 5m/s you should definitely ask to see there 3rd party validated data…in fact, I’d like to see it too :-).

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  • Roland

    Its a wise comment that the solution is not in one technology, but on all the technologies that are available. A serious draw-back is the discontinuity of the production. Therefore such systems should be combined with widely distributable storage systems. Are small hydrogen production systems an option?

  • Paulette Hill

    I live in Southern California in a 28,000 sq.ft., home. Where is a dealer/installer close to me, and what would be the installation cost?

  • David Chu

    Hey Ian and everyone else,

    I think my comments are accurate. Feel free to drag me through the dirt if I am not. 7 m/s is about 16 mph. The average wind speed in the US is about 10 mph and there are very few places in the US where the average wind speed is greater than 16 mph. (Amazingly MT Washington, NH averages about 30 mph) Now the difference between 10 mph and 16 mph may not seem like much until you consider that there is a factor of three for wind velocity in relation to energy.

    So 10 mph = 10^3 = 1000
    And 16 mph = 16^3 = 4096

    Therefore, a difference in 6 mph or about a 60% increase in wind speed is equal to 4 times more energy.

    I’m not a physicist so I’m not completely confident in these numbers. If anyone can refute any of these comments, please do.

    Best regards everyone and a cheers to us finding a solution one day to clean energy.

    Dave

  • Clive Jones

    How much do they cost, How much is the yearly maintance.

  • Sirous Dehmami

    congratulation for your beutifull helix design, It works fantastic. I can negociate my designs for high efficiant blades vertical with wind direction,when against it and automatic or mechanically blade face off when opposit to the wind direction. I also have design for turbines specialy for very high speed winds. We can materialize these ideas and design and make patents together.
    Regards

  • http://energyefficienthometips.net/ Bob

    Look at what the first telephone did and what they do now.
    Wind power is a renewable energy source and it can be harnessed. There is no doubt.
    And improvements will come, no matter how many people say that it will not work!

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