Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Things That Make You Go Wow!

I spent the 45 minute train ride I had to make yesterday to Anaheim by reading the paper version of the Los Angeles Times, and I'm glad I did. I found this article in the business section and it reminded me that we still have plenty of innovators and risk takers in this country who, with a little financial help, can make a big difference in the economy and in the green revolution we so desperately need.

The potential for profit is blowing in the wind, and Green Wave Energy Corp. plans to catch it.

Among its secret weapons: an 11-foot-tall, blazingly white, nearly indestructible prototype generator that produces as much as 11 kilowatts of electricity using gusts of wind.

The fiberglass contraption could make homespun, do-it-yourself wind power a reality, Chief Executive Mark Holmes said. A model version recently stood amid yachts in a Newport Beach shipyard before being disassembled for updates, but Holmes envisions it moving soon into the backyards and rooftops of homes and businesses. ...

Unlike most windmills' propeller-shaped turbines, the Green Wave products operate on a vertical axis, merry-go-round style.

More than 20 U.S. companies build or are developing vertical-axis turbines. Around 200 urban or rooftop units were sold in 2008, double the 2007 number.

Sales of small wind turbines soared last year to $77 million and 10,500 units capable of generating 17.3 megawatts of electricity, marking a 78% increase in capacity sold from 2007, according to the American Wind Energy Assn.
{Emphasis added]

The benefit of a vertical axis rather than that used by the propeller-shaped contraptions is that it is can catch the wind from more than one direction, which takes much of the geographical restrictions out of the picture. Wind gusts from any direction will spin the "merry-go-round" and generate electricity. The principle isn't exactly earthshaking, but its application just might be, if only on a small scale at this point.

Like most start-up companies, Green Wave Energy has had to learn the financial ropes by trial and error, but here too the company has shown resourcefulness:

Holmes has invested $100,000 of his own money since Green Wave launched in October 2008 with a vast underestimation of the resources, time and effort needed to operate.

Development costs have been about $1.7 million, about four times higher than the team had expected.

The crew quickly learned the value of resourcefulness.

Friends, family and other investors, who have pitched in $110,000, have given Green Wave access to $1.5 million in facilities, supplies, vehicles, equipment and services, Holmes said.

The company has no official employees. Instead, all partners who provide services, equipment and working space are considered shareholders and officers. Most Green Wave workers have day jobs, such as the man who engineers corneas for eye replacement surgeries when he isn't designing turbine parts.

Using shareholders' properties -- the shipyard, a 10-acre manufacturing facility in Perris, two others in Santa Ana and Costa Mesa, and a garage in Orange -- saves thousands of dollars in rent a year. Instead of using an expensive wind tunnel to test the strength of the turbines, team members hitch a 4-foot prototype to a truck bed and go for a 55-mph spin.

The really hard part, however, is getting through the dark thicket of governmental rules and regulations, which in California can be daunting, ironically because of environmental concerns. Still, Holmes himself has taken on the job of getting educated in that area as well. It may take several years before the company can ease into a more traditional manufacture and sales mode, but in the mean time, it's still in business:

Meanwhile, in the desert near Victorville, Green Wave is participating in a joint venture to construct and operate a 5-acre park filled with 70 wind turbines. The first 40-foot-tall, $350,000 colossus could be turning its 50-pound blades by February, Holmes said.

A venture capital firm has initially promised 90% of the $26.5 million to develop the park, which could be finished in two years. Green Wave and other partners will raise the rest.

The turbines could each bring in $160,000 a year if the park works out a power-purchase deal with a California utility, Holmes estimated.

That's a pretty decent start for a start-up. It's also a pretty good example of what can happen when good people find a good idea and get down to the business of making it work for the benefit of us all.

I am encouraged.



Anonymous Bllackberyy Insurance said...

The concept of home powered homes is awesome. I would get one. Obbviously thhere is a price point above whhich they are not viable economically, but they make a lot of sense to be free of energy company's whims.

3:44 AM  

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