Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top Five Micro Wind Turbines – Remix

The micro wind turbine market has exploded in the last three years – heck, even the National Football League is on board with wind power – so now is a good time to update one of CleanTechnica’s most popular posts from 2008, “Top Five Micro Wind Turbines.” With three of 2008′s top five micro wind turbines coming from one company, we thought it was time to branch out a bit and give you a more expansive picture of the potentials for micro wind power in 2012 and beyond. Just one caveat: this article is not endorsing any particular company or wind turbine, but at the end you’ll find some tips on researching the product that’s right for you.And now, without further ado, CleanTechnica’s Top Five micro wind turbines – remix!
1. Southwest Windpower, Inc.: Skystream 3.7
We’re featuring Southwest Windpower’s popular Skystream 3.7 turbine in this year’s top five not only because it continues to get good reviews, but also because last month the company announced that it is one of three wind turbines qualifying for California’s wind energy rebate, under strict new guidelines that include third-party certifications and performance verification. Southwest Windpower estimates that the rebate for a Skystream comes to $6,750 based on the California Energy Commission’s rebate of $3.00 per watt of rated capacity. The Skystream 3.7 comes with a five-year warranty and a software package that enables you to monitor it from your computer. It is also now available in a wind-solar hybrid package, so if you’re interested in this product be sure to research it from both the wind and solar angles.
In other company news, earlier this year SouthWest Wind partnered with GE to develop what they bill as the first fully smart grid-enabled micro wind turbine for residential use, the Skystream 600.
2. AeroVironment: Architectural Wind
For the business and public sectors, AeroVironment’s Architectural Wind micro turbine makes our list again because it highlights a look-at-me factor that is becoming more important in the alternative energy market, as more companies and institutions use sustainability to boost their public profiles. Though a focus on aesthetics can greatly (though not necessarily) increase the installed cost of a wind turbine, the investment could be absorbed as a promotional expense. If you look at a couple of the NFL’s micro wind turbines you can see that teams are focused on attractive, high visibility products that add green luster to their brand. On those counts Architectural Wind succeeds with a sleek, eye catching style, and its modular design makes for easy scalability. Architectural Wind is just one advanced alternative energy product in AeroVironment’s portfolio, which includes solar unmanned aircraft. Earlier this year the company also won a contract with the Washington State Department of Transportation to install nine electric vehicle charging station’s for the West Coast Green Highway initiative.
3. Bergey Windpower Co.: BWC Excel 10
The Bergey Windpower Co. is another 2008 Top Five alumnus that is keeping up with new developments in alternative energy markets, one of which is the introduction of industrywide performance standards. Last month, the company announced that its popular BWC Excel 10 wind turbine became the first to attain full certification by the American Wind Energy Association. According to company president Mike Bergey, the certification program will help consumers sort through the “hucksters and hype problem in the small wind marketplace. Bergey explains:
“This new standard is the most significant milestone in the history of the small wind industry because it provides, for the first time, third-party verification of real world performance and a highly technical review of a turbine’s strength and safety.”
The company can trace its beginnings to a 1970′s-era research project at the University of Oklahoma, and its academic roots still show in the detailed “Wind School” consumer education pages on its website. Bergey is also known for its overseas installations in remote locations (pictured here is a Bergey wind turbine in Afghanistan).
4. Portable Micro Wind Power: Arista Power and Skybuilt
We’re including two companies in this category to illustrate how the market for portable wind power has developed – and how far it could go. At one end of the scale you have Arista Power’s Charger 300 series. These are true portable micro wind turbines that can be hand-carried in a suitcase if need be. The lightest, the 300i, weighs only 15 pounds and is designed primarily to recharge batteries; others in the series are designed to fit a greater range of uses. At the other end of the scale is Skybuilt’s mini alternative energy station-in-a-box. Though not designed for hand carry, it is a seamless, shippable unit that includes solar as well as wind capabilities. The company has a number of military contracts for its product, most recently a $2.1 million contract with the Navy. In both cases there are enormous yet-to-be-tapped markets in outdoor recreation, remote research and commercial activities aside from military applications.
5. Kinetic Sculpture: The Art of Micro Wind Power
Though kinetic wind sculpture does not typically involve generating electricity, it still deserves a place in the top five because it hints at the ways in which wind power installations can provide communities with benefits aside from generating clean, low cost energy. For starters, wind-powered sculpture enables communities to engage in a dynamic cultural experience without incurring the ongoing expense of grid-supplied energy. As an inherently outdoor experience, wind sculpture also has a place in recreation and health programs that draw people into parks and other public spaces. The cone-shaped device pictured here is part of a new addition to the striking Meridian Wind Sculpture Walkway in Wellington, New Zealand, which features wind-powered LED lighting along with kinetic features and wind-enabled sound effects. The walkway as a whole was conceived not only for the enjoyment of residents, but as an economic driver and an image booster for the city, as described in its press materials:
“We now have a set of kinetic artworks which is without precedent anywhere on the globe. Individually each is an amazing sculpture to be proud to have in Wellington; collectively we have an asset without peer, providing a stunning entry to the city from the airport, and locking in Wellington’s reputation as the creative art capital.”
How to Research a Good Micro Wind Power Product
Well, that’s our Top Five for 2011. There are many more choices available today than there were just a few years ago, so it’s a lot harder to make a choice, but among the hundreds of wind turbines on the market you can find one that’s right for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind when researching micro wind power products.
1. Steer clear of the “hucksters and hype.” The website of any reputable wind wind turbine company will include links to help you work through the factors that determine whether or not a micro wind turbine makes sense for your property. Generally speaking these are how to determine the predominant winds in your area, and how to assess whether your project can make it through your local zoning regulations and administrative channels (Consumer Reports, as always, also provides some good tips).
2. Along those lines, be sure to add up the total installed cost of your project, not just the price of the turbine. Some companies put the price of the turbine up front and then you have to add in the cost of the tower along with any other equipment, shipping, and installation expenses.
3. Verify rebates. If the company’s promotional material mentions rebates and other opportunities for saving money in your area, confirm those with your local government (town, county or state) or your utility company.
4. Get to know the company by checking to see how user-friendly their customer service department is. A micro wind turbine is a major investment and if you need an assist after installation, you should be able to get help without wading through cumbersome prompt systems, busy signals or long wait times.
5. Get to know wind power. The American Wind Power Association and the Distributed Wind Energy Association are two trade groups that provide general consumer guidance aside from their main goal of promoting the wind power industry and lobbying for more regulatory support.