Jun 9, 2009

Small wind turbine works at low wind speeds

Homeowners this fall will be able to buy a wind turbine at hardware stores that tackles the small wind industry's bete noire: slow wind.

WindTronics, based in Muskegon, Mich.,
has developed a wind turbine sized for individual homes that it says can operate at speeds as low as 2 miles an hour.

It will be sold for $4,500 as the Honeywell Wind Turbine and distributed through Ace Hardware stores in the U.S. starting in October. WindTronics developed the turbine and licensed the technology to buildings systems giant Honeywell.

The fan-like turbine will generate 2,000 kilowatt-hours in a year for a home with a very good--called Class 4--wind resource, according to the company. That's between 15 and 20 percent of the annual electricity consumption for the average U.S. home.

"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 95-pound turbine, which is 6 feet in diameter, can be mounted on rooftops, attached to chimneys, or put on a pole. The company hopes to sell the turbines through Ace Hardware stores or through contractors--who are needed for the installation--to homeowners or businesses.

The tests found that people often chose locations that didn't have sufficient wind or obstructions that blocked wind. In most cases, turbine makers rate products assuming a very good wind resource--anywhere from 12 to 25 miles per hour.

By using a novel design, WindTronics' turbine can generate electricity between 2 miles per hour and 45 miles per hour, the company says.

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