1. Who are the primary customers for your small wind turbines?
When we first started UGE our goal was to create a wind turbine that would work well in urban areas such as the empty roof-tops in New York City. We succeeded in our goal, creating patented technology that is nearly silent and vibration free while at the same time being the only wind turbine in the US with a certified power curve. We also wanted it to look great so that customers and their neighbors wouldn't mind looking at it.
Not surprisingly, the result was that all consumers want these features, no matter where they are! So today we sell to residential, commercial, and governmental customers from all walks of life, as well as distinct applications such as telecoms and lighting.
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of vertical axis wind turbines?
On a small scale, the issue most consumers deal with is that, due to both economics and local regulations, a tall tower is just not feasible. Instead, if you want to install a wind turbine you will be forced to have it closer to the ground and, at these lower heights, the wind tends to be of lower quality. What I mean is that it is not as smooth as it would be at higher heights.
While a horizontal axis wind turbine (the fan-type most people are more familiar with) would have trouble quickly pivoting into the direction the wind is coming from, a vertical axis wind turbine does not need to rotate to find the wind. Simultaneously, it can harvest wind from all directions.
In addition, we have specifically designed it to be non-intrusive in these more intimate settings. Our turbines all operate at rated RPMs under 200, whereas horizontal axis turbines will often operate at over 1,000 RPMs and many other vertical turbines will operate at several hundred RPMs. The lower rated RPM means the wind turbines are quieter, have lower vibration, and are safer as well.
3 . Does it make financial sense for someone to install a wind turbine?
Almost ten years ago, the US Government introduced a 30% federal tax credit for solar panels which is largely credited for the growth in that industry. Just over one year ago the small wind industry received the same tax credit, while several states are bringing in incentives as well. Together, along with rapidly advancing technologies and the fact that wind energy costs less than half that of solar pre-incentives, according to the AWEA, small wind is really quite attractive.
Our customers are able to produce electricity with one of our wind turbines at a cost of $0.10 - 0.15 per kWh, less than almost all Americans currently pay for their electricity. In fact I was working on a project with a client in Puerto Rico recently where the projections showed the wind turbine would produce electricity at just $0.08 per kWh, compared to $0.23 that they were currently paying.
4 . What if there is a black-out? Will a consumer then have electricity still?
The best answer to this is 'it depends.' Wind turbines can be installed in different ways. Typically the utility company requires that the inverter used be UL 1741 listed, which means that when the grid shuts off the inverter must shut off too. In this case you won't be able to use any electricity from the wind turbine in the case of a black-out.
However, we have introduced a series of controllers specific to our wind turbines that can connect to a battery bank and provide a steady power source even when there is a black-out. In this way you can make sure that the most important components in your house are powered by the wind turbine.
I have a relative who is a real estate agent in Toronto, Canada. During the depths of winter in late-2008 there was a black-out that affected much of the city. Although most people had gas heating, the furnaces require a small amount of electricity for their control system. Without electricity many people went without heat for several days.
In this instance, a customer could use even our smallest wind turbine to ensure that this never happens. The furnace and key lights could be powered by the wind turbine, keeping you and your family comfortable throughout this period of time.
5 . Do you see solar as a competitive product or complimentary?
More and more we are seeing it as a complimentary product. Actually, many of our customers already use solar and are looking to add a wind turbine to their existing system to further offset their electricity bill. Also, while the sun may come up in the morning, it also goes down at night. The wind turbine can operate all times of the day, and winds are often the most prevalent at night.
This type of hybrid system is possible thanks to our range of Solar Ready controllers that can connect both our wind turbine and a solar system together. Whether adding to an existing solar system, or leaving that possibility open for a later date, these Solar Ready controllers give you a lot of versatility.
6 . What sort of trends are you seeing?
Although connecting several solar panels together is now the norm, the idea of using several wind turbines together has not yet caught on, though more and more of our customers are looking at this concept, especially ones in the commercial sector as well as large apartment buildings. By using several wind turbines together you can save cost on the electronics, making the overall system cost more affordable. You can also offset more of your energy usage, especially for a larger building.
Along the same lines, we are seeing more commercial enterprises use one or more of our wind turbines in part as a green statement. The great thing about using wind turbines is that it is a very affordable way to show a company's commitment to the environment. The wind turbines produce energy and reduce the electricity bill while at the same time drawing attention to the company's green credentials.
7. Where do you see the small wind turbine market going over the next 5-10 years?
Small wind is at the early stages of where solar was approximately 10 years ago. Small wind turbines are just starting to be used in a number of applications that hold significant potential for the industry. Telecoms and street lighting are but two examples that hold significant promise for the long run.
The AWEA projected 30-fold growth in 5-years approximately one year ago and, despite last year's tough economy, I think this is reasonable. We are seeing great demand for our products around the globe and couldn't be more excited for what the future holds.
8 . What kind of new products do you have in development?
We have just launched eddy (c), a new 600W vertical axis wind turbine, available for purchase on our website. eddy is great for powering part of a home's energy usage while also providing energy storage in case of a power outage. It is also available with a UGE Solar Ready controller, making a hybrid system completely possible.
The next product that we will be launching in June is another line of wind-powered lamps. I am really excited about the design of this product which will be used for smaller scale applications such as path lighting.
We have several other products in development as well so readers can watch our website for more exciting product launches later this year.
Urban Green Energy