Solar has been king when it comes to residential clean energy production. For decades, it has provided millions with safe, reliable, clean energy in our homes. The main drawback to solar is what to do when it is not sunny. Lack of sun may not be a problem in Phoenix and Las Vegas, but in areas like Seattle and Anchorage, it is. So now we must look at other ways an individual can produce safe and reliable clean energy. Could wind be the answer to the shortcomings of solar?
There have been many developments in wind technology. Knowing that no single solution works for everyone, here are highlights of several companies with various solutions.
Flower Turbines, based in New York City, creates vertical wind turbines resembling large, skinny tulips. They’re designed to be installed on the ground or a flat roof. The vertical-axis turbines can start generating power at low wind speeds of just 0.7 meters per second, compared to 3.5 m/s (or 12.6 km/h) for traditional wind turbines. The company sells one- and three-meter-high models in the U.S. and Europe.
PowerNEST, made by IBIS Power in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, is a rooftop unit that integrates wind and solar in what the company describes as a “flowing kinetic sculpture.” It uses fins on the edges of the rectangular frame to direct air to vertical turbines underneath a solar panel roof. The wind helps cool the panels and increase their efficiency. The company says the system can capture six to 10 times more electricity than rooftop solar panels alone. So far, the company has created a handful of demonstration projects in the Netherlands.
Aeromine Technologies, based in Houston, has a technology with no external blades, so it isn’t really a turbine. Instead, it captures air between stationary, hollow airfoils (similar to those used to stabilize race cars) and funnels it to a partially enclosed propeller underneath. The company says this harnesses and amplifies building airflow in wind speeds as low as 2 m/s (or 8 km/h) while also allowing the unit to generate power at high wind speeds in “most extreme weather conditions.” The company has a pilot running in the U.S. and says it will be announcing several pilots in Canada later this month.
O-Wind, made by O-Innovations in Lancaster, U.K. Its inventors won the International James Dyson Award for a soccer ball-sized prototype designed to harvest wind from any direction when mounted on the side or roof of a building. Since then, they have honed and patented the design and produced a larger functional prototype. They have received grant funding to install pilots in urban areas.
RidgeBlade, made by Kingston, Ont.-based The Power Collective. The RidgeBlade was designed to use the existing surface of a pitched roof to focus wind and boost its speed as it travels through turbines along the roof’s ridge. “Placing the turbine in this high-flow area means that up to nine times the energy is available to it compared to a [traditional horizontal-axis wind turbine] system,” the company said on its website, which offers residential and commercial modular units for sale.
As with all things there are drawbacks. First is cost, we as concerned citizens must find ways to make solar and wind affordable so everyone can benefit. Finally manufacturing the elements that make up the clean energy products is also a concern. We should all think about mining, burning fossil fuels, and working conditions before buying any product.
Technology is constantly advancing, enabling individuals to make energy choices for their homes now. Geography and living conditions are no longer limitations; people have clean energy solutions.