Canada - Swift turbines, small-scale mini wind turbines being marketed

"It's a new genre for the marketplace,"

For more than two decades, Brian Braginton-Smith has had big dreams for wind energy on the Cape. Originally, he envisioned a vast array of towering wind turbines in the waters of Nantucket Sound, a concept that eventually evolved into the proposed Cape Wind project. Though no longer involved with that venture, Braginton-Smith's hopes for wind power on the Cape have not diminished. The turbines he expects to use, however, have gotten considerably smaller.

The alternative-energy entrepreneur is now selling Swift turbines, small-scale devices that are designed to be mounted on top of buildings. Braginton-Smith, the owner and founder of Community Wind Power in South Yarmouth, describes the technology as an innovation in the American renewable-energy market. "It's a new genre for the marketplace," he says. "(The technology) is essential for being able to tap into the wind in areas where you've got urban densities."
Swift turbines were developed by a Scottish company, Renewable Devices. Last fall, Michigan-based Cascade Engineering struck a deal to be the American manufacturer of the devices. The advantage of Swift turbines, Braginton-Smith says, is that they allow more businesses and homeowners to produce clean energy by reducing the amount of space needed to install the device.

Turbines used for conventional small-scale wind projects can produce as much 10 kilowatts of power per hour. They are typically mounted on a tower as high as 100 feet, a height that can pose permitting difficulties in many towns. Because these installations must also be surrounded be a fall zone that is free of obstacles, as much as an acre of clear land can be required for the windmill. The rotor of a Swift turbine has a diameter slightly less than 7 feet; the entire device stands less than 10 feet above the surface on which it is mounted.

They have a maximum production capacity of 1.5 kilowatts per hour, but can be installed on the roof of any home or business that has sufficient wind. "Structure-mounted (turbines) make a great deal of sense, particularly if you've got existing structures exposed to wind," Braginton-Smith says. "And we've got robust wind on the Cape." Community Wind Power charges $10,500 for a Swift turbine; for $22,000, a customer can get a turbine and small electric car with a 40-mile range. The company will also help customers navigate the turbine permitting and installation process.

The first installation of Swift turbines on the Cape was completed in November, when three of the devices were erected at the Christy's Market in West Yarmouth. "The goal is to do our little part in trying to become as green as we possibly can," says Christy Mihos, the owner of the Christy's convenience store chain. Mihos says he eventually hopes to have a similar array of turbines installed at nine of his twelve area stores.

The West Yarmouth turbines have not yet started producing electricity, so Mihos does not have firm numbers regarding their production, but he says he expects the turbines to provide about 30 percent of the store's energy needs. The investment should pay for itself in utility savings in about five years, Mihos estimates. "It isn't the silver bullet, but it certainly will make a significant impact," he says.

In addition to energy cost savings, homeowners or businesses that install a Swift turbine may also be eligible for a significant rebate from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a quasi-public agency tasked with developing renewable energy in the state. Wind projects that meet minimum requirements are eligible for a rebate of $2.25 for every watt of capacity, Jon Abe, senior project manager for the agency, explains. An additional $1.25 per watt is available for commercial installations in economic target areas — which include most of the Cape — and residential projects on homes of moderate value, currently $400,000 or less in Barnstable County, Abe says.
At these rates, owners of Swift turbines could expect a rebate of between $3,375 and $5,250, depending on their precise situation. Not everyone is optimistic about the potential of these turbines, however.

Richard Lawrence, the clean energy program coordinator for Cape Cod Community College, is concerned that turbines mounted at such low heights won't have access to sufficient wind. "The reason we don't fly kites near the ground is that the wind is not good there," he says. As a rule of thumb, he said, a small wind project needs to rise at least 30 feet above the height of anything within a 300-foot radius. "Any roof-mounting will be impossible to meet that," Lawrence says. For Braginton-Smith, however, the question is about more than economics. The central issue, he said, is creating change in society's attitudes towards sustainable energy production. "We all have to take incremental steps in order to make a difference," he says. "The only way that we're going to be able to do that is to take the initiative on the personal level."

source:
Online editorial www.windfair.net
author:
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
email:
press@windfair.net

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