Using big things to create electricity is generally good – but not always. Big things tend to be inefficient, hard to handle and to install. Wind turbines are just the case of this example – if they are too big, they are too noisy and insensitive to slow winds – that leads to inefficiency in all related aspects.
Still, there are inventors and wind turbine manufacturers that focus on this very niche: low-speed wind turbines. One such small wind turbine maker is WindTronics, who sold a small wind turbine patent to Honeywell, that is specialized in making building systems. Windtronics’ wind turbine operates in winds with speeds as low as 2 mph, and produce 2,000 kWh in a year if placed in a nicely-winded area (a class 4 wind resource), saving homeowners about 15 to 20 percent electricity expenses.
“We say if a turbine only works between 8 and 25 miles per hour, you have a very limited range of operation,” said Brian Levine, the vice president of business development at WindTronics, a division of EarthTronics. “Our device is rated to address a wider range at the low and high end.”
The secret to this efficiency is the turbine’s shape: it has a patented blades system that have magnets on their tips. Instead of using gearboxes like bigger sisters do, this small wind turbine produces direct current at very low wind speeds.
The 6 feet in diameter turbine also has a small operating noise, between 35 and 45 dB, lower than an average conversation and that makes it usable on private home rooftops, not only high buildings.
The price of Windtronics’ small wind turbine will be $4,500, and you’ll be able to purchase it from Ace Hardware stores in the U.S. starting October. It all depends on how much electricity you are consuming, for recovering the initial investment. I guess this turbine also has to be protected against theft, high winds (btw, it has a self-protection system that flips it sideways when wind speeds are higher than 45mph), and other factors, including thunderstorms.
It remains to be calculated the overall green contribution of this wind turbine and if the pollution produced during its making won’t outbalance the green electricity it makes. Knowing Honeywell’s overseas outsourcing habits, I wouldn’t be surprized of a negative balance. But, hey… still, let’s be optimistic!