Saturday, March 30, 2013

Portable Wind Turbines Provide Power Where Needed Most

Powersails work just like traditional wind turbines - only smaller.
Manufacturing GroupMARCH 30, 2013
When most Washingtonians think of wind turbines, they think of those massive towers stretching across the open spaces of central Washington near the Columbia River where the wind is steady and strong. 
But, Pete Agtuca, founder of 3 Phase Energy Systems, says his patented, portable wind turbines can generate energy right where it’s needed, whether in urban areas of the Puget Sound region or remote areas of the Philippines.

Powersails work on the same principles as traditional wind turbines, but the towers are much shorter, from 35 to 55 feet tall, and the ultra lightweight blades are sheathed in fabric, much like a sail. A patent protected airfoil/sail design enables the turbine to start spinning in wind of just 1.4mph and start generating power at 3mph.
"We have the lowest start-up speed in the industry,” Agtuca says. 
Powersails are available as a mobile unit or a permanent installation and can be customized to run on solar and fuel, as well as wind. Depending on the model, Powersails can produce from 6kW to 10kW, at an installation cost of about $4,000 per kilowatt, and the storage capacity is about 1,200 amp hours.
For home use, a 10kW turbine could power a couple computers, a TV, refrigerator and freezer, a microwave, cellphone chargers and quite a few house lamps. 

Innovation a strong suit
Agtuca, who founded Pacific Air Cargo Transfer Systems in 1992 and Laser Cutting Northwest in 1998, got serious about alternative energy in 2006 when Washington voters passed I-937. The clean energy initiative requires utilities to increase their reliance on alternative energy, from about 1 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2020.
Laser Cutting Northwest was built on innovation, he says, so he and his staff turned that same skill set to the challenge of reducing his company’s reliance on fossil fuels - and to the feasibility of urban wind turbines in particular. Their efforts were so successful that he has nine patents, 11 patents pending and a new company. 
With the help of the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Agtuca is mapping a strategy to make sure his company can move from the research and development and manufacturing phases, where Agtuca excels, to actually gaining a foothold in the alternative energy market.
SBDC expertise
Agtuca first met Asbury Lockett, an SBDC certified business advisor at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Wash., in 2012 to talk about marketing Powersails. When Lockett heard about the export potential of Powersails, he called in Stan Lance, an international trade specialist with the SBDC.
"They came to my facility and said ‘How can we help you succeed?’” Agtuca says. Even with 20 years of experience as a successful business owner, he says, he appreciated the expertise and depth of the SBDC network. 
"If you tell them, ‘This is what I need,’ they will draw on their vast resources to help you get it,” he says. "That in itself is a huge benefit for companies like mine.”
The Washington SBDC Network has 26 certified business advisors working in communities from the Canadian border to the Columbia River to help small business owners start, grow or transition their business. SBDC advising is confidential and provided at no cost to the business owner. 
The Washington SBDC is a program of Washington State University, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other institutions of higher education and economic development. 
WSU student team helps
When Lance learned Agtuca was interested in export trade, he worked with staff at the SBDC Export Readiness Center to pull together market research relevant to the business. A team of WSU business students spent more than 40 hours digging for information that allowed Agtuca to compare the export potential in various countries. That process, Agtuca says, helped confirm his belief that the Philippines would be a good place to start. 
Based on the research, Agtuca reached out to potential customers and has been encouraged by the response. Earlier this year, he signed a memorandum of understanding with a nongovernmental agency in the Philippines and expects to deliver at least two Powersails this summer.
Role in disaster relief 
Because Powersail PODs (power on demand) are portable and can generate power from wind, sun or fuel, Agtuca sees a huge potential for disaster relief. 
He has created a program called Powersails Relief Exchange Program, or PREP. The way it works, he says, is that if a disaster occurs and energy systems are disrupted, relief organizations or private citizens could make a request for assistance from PREP. 
Powersail owners who have indicated a willingness to participate in the program would then be given the opportunity to relinquish their existing Powersail and receive a replacement turbine within a set time period, most likely six to eight weeks. Agtuca’s company would facilitate packing and shipping the existing Powersail to the disaster site and delivering the new Powersail to the PREP participant. 
While the upfront cost of a generator is much lower than a wind turbine, fuel is typically in short supply during a disaster - and it’s costly. In 2010, Agtuca says, the global cost for diesel fuel to power generators was $18 billion.
Ads on the grand scale
 Yet another advantage of a Powersail over a generator, he says, is that the fabric sails provide an eye-catching canvas for advertising. Although $40,000 might seem like a big investment for an alternative energy system, it’s pretty affordable for a 50-foot-tall banner billboard.