NewEnergyNews: ARCHITECTURAL WIND: MORE POWER, WINNING WAYS

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    Saturday, August 11, 2007

    ARCHITECTURAL WIND: MORE POWER, WINNING WAYS

    Exclusive for NewEnergyNews

    Architectural Wind, the breakthrough mini-turbine design from AeroVironment, is about to take another leap forward in power, going from a 400-watt to a 1000-watt capability. The current version has won two international design awards and interest is growing in the unique concept that does for wind energy what the photovoltaic panel did for solar energy.

    The big little wind turbine.

    Architectural Wind was awarded a green category 2006 “red dot design award” – considered a seal of approval – and also will be among those recognized as a 2007 environmental category “best” in I.D. Magazine’s annual review issue this August. Conceived especially for undistinguished, box-like industrial-style buildings of middle height and little texture, Architectural Wind not only generates non-greenhouse gas-emitting energy, but also gives the building what AeroVironment project leader Paul Glenney calls a “kinetic” quality that catches and appeals to the eye while announcing the building occupant’s commitment to clean energy and the environment.

    Rendering of an installation of the 400K turbines. (click to enlarge)

    Architectural Wind’s uniqueness is more than good looks. Its multi-patented mini-turbine array is quickly and easily installed at a building roof’s lip and adjusted to the ideal pitch, allowing the five patented-design blades of each turbine to capture the wind’s full force as it strikes the structure’s wall and accelerates up, over the facing. Glenney describes this as “finding the sweet spot.” The wind energy captured by the line of mini-turbines is then integrated into the building’s electrical grid by a UL-approved inverter connected through a high voltage DC buss, generating electricity whenever the wind blows at 5 mile per hour or faster.

    Installation at an Austin Energy service building in Austin, Texas. (click to enlarge)

    The new 1000-wat AVX1000 micro-turbine takes distribute wind energy to a whole new level. Standing eight feet high and six feet across and weighing 130 pounds, with 66-inch blades, a 10-kilowatt (10 turbine) array can be installed for less than $60,000. For a class three wind (of seven classes: calm, light, moderate/fresh, strong, gale, strong gale, hurricane), a 10-kilowatt system will, Glenney estimates, produce 12,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Rates vary but, given a 20- to 25-year turbine life span, Architectural Wind is likely to pay for itself within five or six years where rates are at the higher end, there are incentive programs and there are depreciation tax benefits. Glenney is optimistic that with economies of scale this will get even better.

    Because of the system’s unique architecture, wind’s intermittency is less of a problem. Not only is the wind energy fed directly into the grid, so the building can still draw on grid power when the wind isn’t blowing, but the array at the building’s lip leaves the roof surface free for the installation of a solar energy system that can be routed through the same inverter. It is not uncommon for the wind to fall off when it is hottest and pick up at sunset when temperatures drop, so the systems compliment one another.

    Twenty kilowatts of wind energy at the Death Valley Rio Tinto Mineral (formerly 20-Mule-Team Borax) factory in Boron, CA. (click to enlarge)

    Architectural Wind’s most recent installations are at the Adventure Aquarium (Camden, NJ) and the Rio Tinto Mineral (formerly 20-Mule-Team Borax) factory (Boron, CA). Versions have been installed at a Pioneer Electronics building (Long Beach CA), a Nestle Waters building (Cabazon, CA), a Staples fulfillment plant (Ontario, CA) and a City of Austin (TX) building sponsored by Austin Energy (which is currently being upgraded).

    Paul MacCready (click to enlarge)

    Architectural Wind comes from AeroVironment, the cutting-edge Monrovia, CA, firm founded by Paul MacCready, who Time Magazine called “one of the greatest minds of the 20th century” and who Discover Magazine named the “Engineer of the 20th Century.” Architectural Wind was developed by Glenney, Aerovironment’s Tom Zambrano and Oregon State University’s Stel Walker. A-V’s Robert Barrosa has taken the technical lead in developing the AVX1000.

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