Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Jun 15

Small, Low Speed Wind Turbine

Posted in Future Technology | Wind Power | Wind Turbines

Low Speed Wind Turbine Most of us want to reduce our carbon footprints but currently most of the alternative energy products are simply unavailable for urban population that lives in metros. But gradually the scenario of alternative energy is changing and manufacturers have started thinking from common person’s point of view. Recently EarthTronics, which is based in Muskegon, Michigan, has developed a wind turbine that can be used by individual homes. EarthTronics also claims that it can operate at speeds as low as 2 miles an hour. Consequently, 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. This turbine is named as Honeywell Wind Turbine and it will be distributed through Ace Hardware stores in the U.S. It will be sold for $4,500. WindTronics developed the turbine and licensed the technology to buildings systems giant Honeywell.

The challenges ahead of the company are to design attractive and at the same time affordable small wind turbines. But the greater hurdle is to reduce the weight of the turbine and they should be capable of turning light wind into power. Why are manufacturers trying to combine these properties? Because most of the target consumers are living in urban and suburban settings where trees and buildings could easily block wind. So if the above properties of the wind turbines can be combined then the market size can be quite lucrative for the manufacturers.

The low-speed milestone is achieved by removing the gearbox from the center. The wind power turns the magnets located around the frame to generate power. This design is termed as “direct-drive” generator. The EarthTronics has got rid of the heavy and costly gearbox in the middle. The design reduces the number of components and allows the turbine to start generating power with low wind.

This turbine resembles a fan and will produce 2,000 kilowatt-hours in a year for a 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 wind turbine weighs 95-pound and its diameter is 6 feet. It can easily be installed on rooftops or attached to chimneys, or put on a pole. The company hopes to sell the turbines through Ace Hardware stores. They are not ruling out to sell the turbine through contractors who will also be needed for the installation. Their target consumers are both homeowners and businesses.

People are increasingly becoming aware of alternative forms of energy. Therefore the market size for such products is increasing. This goes well for the surge in demand for the wind turbines too. But it’s still unclear that these small wind turbines are cost-effective enough to be used beyond a niche of green-minded buyers.

Two studies made the observation that people often chose locations that didn’t have sufficient wind or had obstructions that blocked the wind. In most cases, turbine makers rated products assuming a very good wind resource–anywhere from 12 to 25 miles per hour. WindTronics didn’t overlook these facts. That’s why they have generated such turbines that can produce electricity between 2 miles per hour.

Rooftop wind turbine sales represent less than 0.002 percent of the small wind market in the United States. But this figure should not discourage the turbine producers. They should look at the other side of the coin – a vast market still remains untapped. “It’ll start to operate much earlier and get to prime production at the level when other technologies are just starting,” Levine said.

Not only the manufacturers but the federal and state incentives are making small wind systems more attractive too. The federal stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year, has lifted a $4,000 cap for consumers and businesses investing in and owning small wind turbines. Now they can get an uncapped 30 percent investment tax credit, allowing people to recoup 30 percent of the installation costs. But purchasing the equipment is still not cheap and maintenance too will be costly. People may complain about aesthetic issues and neighbors too might not find small wind turbines harmonious with their houses.

  • russ

    I like wind power! I am all in favor of it – however I am also for truth in advertising!

    At 2 mph wind speed virtually zero power will be generated – there is no force to convert to electricity. This claim is pure hocus pocus!

    They make great claims about not using a gearbox – wonderful! That only means this is a high speed unit with more potential for bird kills plus a lot of noise.

    Very few places have an annual average of 12 mph or greater wind speed as well. Average wind speeds for an area are available form the government. These are a start. Please note that the numbers posted by the gov site will be at 10 meters (33 feet) elevation – not at roof top.

    These guys do not offer a power curve on their web site – for good reason as it will show the truth.

    Anyone selling like this is only interested in the government subsidies and incentives.

    There are honest turbine suppliers out there if one looks. I recommend a site if anyone is interested in the truth about wind.

    The are studies that tell the truth about small scale wind – two of those are as follow:

    1. Encraft Warwick Wind Trials Final Report
    2. Site Selection and Factors Influencing Small Wind Systems’ Energy Output

    The planet needs saved! We will not accomplish this with magic such as this represents.

  • Nicklos Stefanisko

    I like this, it looks like that with two or three of them one could easily set up a personal wind farm. That said, I’d like someone to study the impact of large scale wind farms in general on weather patterns. I’m concerned that taking the energy out of the wind could disrupt the weather somewhere else, like a butterfly effect. I don’t think a house with a couple of these on the roof would be a problem though. The question is at what point does our ability to take over shadow the planet’s ability to give.

  • Julie Lancaster Cowan

    Would work very well in New Zealand which is quite windy.

  • Zahira Ameen

    I’m sure this would work on top of any skyscraper, too.

  • Ruth Case

    This is great! Much better than noisy giant turbines blighting the landscape that may become hazardous in the future due to lack of maintenance (such funding is always a problem). Also transporting the energy across the country allows giant corporations to own our government as the oil giants have for more than 50 years.

  • Ahsanullah Soomro

    Very nice technology. I felt happy as came to know the mentioned technology. Through this concept I am sure every household will install small wind turbines, this will not only help to reduce the gases emission but also help to enhance the utilization of alternative energy resources. one thing is moving in my mind, maintenance cost should also be discussed along with its initial cost as mentioned $4,500 and its life.

  • Jane Ferreira

    A thought relative to the distribution point, Ace Hardware, is to form relationships in locales with electricians who can install – otherwise, consumers run the risk of purchasing then trying to determine the best method, location of installation. And oh yeah, how does the net metering work in my city, state. Just a thought but a move in the right direction.

  • Will

    2000 kwh per year = 5.4 kwh per day = 225 watts per hour. A 6ft diameter rotor has a swept area of 2.5m2. Assuming a 50% efficiency a turbine would need to operate in an average wind speed of 7m/s (14mph) to create this much power. Most wind turbines operate significantly under 50% efficiency. especially at low wind speeds.

    0.5 air density (0.625) * V*V*V (7*7*7=343) * area (2.5m) = 545 watts /hr, *0.5 efficiency =272w/hr

    1. Turbines in low wind speeds never come close to achieving 50% efficiency.

    2. Nowhere except Alaska and Shetland (maybe Greenland) have average wind pseeds of >7m/s

    3. This claim is about X10 more than realistic expectations (depending on location)

    4. The power available in 2-3mph wind is miniscule. There is no advantage in capturing low windspeeds.

    5. THere are soooo many bogus claims from manufactures preying on honest people hoping to reduce their carbon footprint. Someone needs to start preventing this. It is damaging to the industry. This claim needs to be backed up with real data. THe more bigus claims are put out there the harder it will be for companies to sele turbines that actually acheive viable results.

  • Rob

    Well I have the perfect name for this slimy product. They should call it the Placebo Axis Wind Turbine! What a perfect example of no-conscience corporate greed at work. There is a reason no-one has been marketing wind turbines that operate in the really low wind speeds. That would be because there IS NO POWER THERE! OK, wow so you can get an unloaded propeller to spin, that looks nice on a promotional video. Hey, why not make a model that is designed to be hidden inside your garage, that way the neighbors won’t be upset by how unsightly it looks. The various government agencies that are offering grants and subsidies had better take a look at where their money is being spent and put the brakes on for products like this where the waste of precious public taxpayer’s money is so blatantly obvious to anyone with a kindergarten physics degree. The ONLY way a product like this can be considered successful is in the way it might qualify for such grants and subsidies, not by the way it can generate even the slightest bit of ROI based on electricity produced. Two thumbs down!

  • Charles

    Claim 1- 2 mph is about .3-.4 Watts. A new fluorescent bulb is 13 watts. What is this claim about? 2 mph, as mentioned, is no electricity and if you figure in the losses through the wires you could actually be using electricity. Claim 2- 1580 kWhrs per year translates to about US$160.00. How can they claim in the video 12-36 month payback! and the $4500 does not include installation. Read the books (before you buy) about small wind energy and site placement as well as the calculations mentioned in the other posts. Wind energy is great but we must be realistic about claims. This isn’t one of them.

  • russ

    Another good source of information about small wind turbines from an independent source is

    Will – this may be of interest to you as it contains info about shrouded turbines – not complimentary but in studying something you need to study the bad along with the good and then come up with your independent analysis.

  • Romur1

    The average wind speed where I live is 9 MPH. My electric rate is $0.08/kWh, multiple that by 2000 kWh/year and my saving is $160/year. Divide that into the $4500 cost and it will take 28 years to pay back the cost of the unit. A lot more than the 4-5 years stated on the earthtronics site.

    It’s BS like this that turns people off to alt-energy.

  • Caleb

    so it’s supposed to produce 2000kWh/yr. that means lets say you pay $0.10 that means you save $200/yr it would take 22.5 yrs to pay it off. I think we need to go back to the drawing board on this one.

  • Ali

    Hi guys, I’m just wondering if this methodology is worthwhile to be used on a very large scale. I’m not talking about this particular small wind turbine instead overall technology. I’m from and in Pakistan where we’re facing power shortage crisis due to lack of water deposits. Water energy generation is the only medium over here. I’m just wondering if renewable wind energy is answer to the question? Pakistan has strong windy locations and pieces of land where turbines can be installed. Off what sized turbine, costing how much, can produce 1 megawatt? Please enlighten if anyone has knowledge about it. Would be appreciated.

  • Tom Mcinerney

    The comments by Russ (June15) and ,particularly , Will (June16) are apt/correct. The Honeywell device is actually a scaled-down version of a machine-design once {during the Carter Admin RenewableEnergy R&D program} featured on the cover of PopularMechanics Magazine. The aspect that limits its efficiency is the large number of blade-elements in the rotor-structure– this guarantees a low tip-speed ratio , but also ensures startup torque.
    * * *
    Hello Ali –
    Regarding large wind turbine economics , please see:

    And also , perhaps:

    -regards , Tom Mb

  • Jake

    Agreed, there is very little energy in the wind at low speeds. I would like to see the wind speed power curve for this turbine because I bet it is very inefficient at higher wind speeds. Don’t believe the hype, crunch the numbers yourself. Wind will work for some sites, but it looks like this one is bogus.

  • Bob

    The Honeywell-Ace wind turbine claims to produce 2,000 kW/h per year with a 6 ft diameter blade. If this were true and at an electric cost of 0.1$ per kW/h it would produce $200 of electricity a year.

    The reality is that even at 7 mph wind speed this turbine would produce no more then 17.3 watts of electricity or 152 kW/h per year. At 12 mph wind speed it could not produce more then 87 watts of electricity even if it operated at 35% efficiency. In practice, 35% average efficiency is a very high value for a wind turbine system.

    The conclusions of this basic analysis is that this turbine, at 12mph wind speed, would produce a maximum of 762 kW/h per year. This translates to $76.2 per year, at $0.1 kW/h, in electricity production.

    It would seem that Honeywell’s claim of producing 2,000kW/h per year from this turbine at low wind speeds is false. However, at 17 mph wind speed this turbine could produce the advertised value if this was a 35% efficient system.

    The above calculations show that this turbine, at 17mph wind speed, is a 300 to 400 watt system and is essentially a toy worth about $500. For Honeywell-Ace to market this product for $4,000 indicates a real problem with the Honeywell and Ace management.


  • DFinch

    Thank you to all of the skeptics who responded to this. Very helpful to see people with a knowledge of aerodynamics and physics address claims like these. 🙂

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