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The new 'Architecture Wind' system is highly efficient, features a bird shield, and looks stylish atop urban roofs.  (Source: Aerovironment)

A series of the devices sits perched atop a city roof. Aerovironment is look to generate interest in preparation to mass produce the product and bring it to market in cities worldwide.  (Source: Aerovironment)
While some wind power may just blow, Aerovironment looks to be sleek and stylish

Wind power is an oft maligned source of alternative energy.  One common complaint aired is that it’s not cost/resource effective.  On a similar track, people often accuse it of producing too little power to be helpful.  Finally, some accuse it of being too obtrusive.  Even some environmentalists knock wind power for allegedly killing birds that fly into the slowly spinning metal turbine blade.

While it can't change such opinions overnight, Aerovironment is looking to slowly warm people to wind power by providing direct solutions to the frequent criticisms. And in the process, it hopes to transform the face of modern cities around the world.

Aerovironment produces building-mounted turbines, smaller than those typically seen on wind farms.  By mounting the turbine structure to the tops of buildings, the benefits are twofold.  First, the cost in resources of building a pole to support the turbine is eliminated.  Secondly, the turbines can be elevated much higher, exposing them to stronger winds.

The nearly silent turbines snap onto the parapet of urban structures, forming a design that Aerovironment calls ‘Architectural Wind’.  The rows of turbines not only catch cross currents, but also the frequent currents that develop up the side of buildings.  The result is a 30 percent increase in energy production and even better, a great savings in hassle, in that the turbines are quick to snap in.

While the system is extremely well designed and efficient, many will be drawn to its style.  The system's curvy design looks more like a modern art sculpture than a cutting edge alternative energy design.  This in turn adds to the urban appeal.  Part of the structure even serves another utilitarian use -- the large metal plate over the turbine acts as a bird shield, in an effort to minimize avian casualties.

Aerovironment describes their product stating, "Architectural Wind is designed to install easily onto the building parapet, operating in plain sight as an attractive complement to the building’s architecture. Additionally, based on its proprietary system design, Architectural Wind turbines rotate at low wind speeds, resulting in a form of ‘kinetic architecture’ that communicates clearly the generation of clean energy. Working alone or in tandem with other renewable energy technologies, Architectural Wind is designed to offer an attractive ROI and cost per kW of installed capacity."

A module weighs 200 lbs, allowing relatively easy installation, but also ensuring that it won't blow away.  They measure 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.  Installations start at 6 kW of power production and can be scaled up to produce much more.  Almost any rooftop is suitable to the nonintrusive installation.  The product is in development, but the company hopes to mass produce the new turbines on a large scale, making them relatively affordable, and ensuring the systems turn a profit in energy costs.

While wind farms leave some with little to be excited about, Aerovironment's new approach seems an intriguing fit to bring wind power to an urban atmosphere and start cutting costs.  



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RE: I like it
By jbartabas on 6/12/2008 3:30:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
This is where I see wind and solar going. I don't think that the huge wind and solar farms some companies are building will be cost or space efficient.


A 6kW "unit" at 30% capacity factor could be an interesting offset for a standard household. Unfortunately I haven't seen a cost estimate (initial & maintenance).

They pretend that buildings (size?) could accommodate ~ 100 units so assuming such a building would have a comparable number of households, that could be a substantial source of energy. It remains to be seen if it is at an acceptable price though.


RE: I like it
By Spuke on 6/12/2008 4:37:27 PM , Rating: 2
I know the home units cost upwards of $30k.


RE: I like it
By MrBlastman on 6/12/2008 4:45:11 PM , Rating: 2
With economies of scale, I'm sure we could see a rather rapid reduction in price with widespread adoption.


RE: I like it
By Spuke on 6/12/2008 5:19:33 PM , Rating: 2
In my area, it's cheaper than solar and since it's windy more often than not (dead calm days are extremely rare), it's a pretty decent alternative to solar. Solar does edge out wind here with over 345 days a year of sun but it costs more (7.5kW = $50k). I live in a rural are too so we don't have restrictions on wind turbines (I think you have to have at least one acre of land to build a turbine).


RE: I like it
By Spuke on 6/12/2008 5:20:24 PM , Rating: 2
Need edit button! RURAL AREA


RE: I like it
By masher2 (blog) on 6/12/2008 10:14:53 PM , Rating: 2
> "With economies of scale, I'm sure we could see a rather rapid reduction in price "

Wind power in particular is expensive because the turbines require such a vast amount of metals and other resources per unit of power generates. Economies of scale aren't going to help that, in fact it will actually work in reverse, as building them on a massive scale would cause resource shortages, driving up not only their prices, but everything else made with the same resources.


RE: I like it
By AnnoyedGrunt on 6/13/2008 1:36:49 AM , Rating: 2
The entire unit only weighs 200 lbs. Considering the relatively few number of parts and small amount of material required to build a 200 lb turbine (relative to say, a car, with ~3000 lbs of material) then it seems reasonable that significant economies of scale would allow these to be ~$10,000 each (judging from the cost of motorcycles, segway scooters, industrial robots of various types, etc.) These units do not seem to contain any special materials that would cause a ramp in volume to begin to cause an increase in the prices of raw materials due to resource shortages.


RE: I like it
By flipsu5 on 6/14/2008 12:18:29 AM , Rating: 2
Is smaller turbine better because it is lighter? Can it be designed to catch more wind?


RE: I like it
By flipsu5 on 6/14/2008 12:16:11 AM , Rating: 2
Good points but need to consider isn't this rather general: for example, wouldn't solar compete for silicon wafer supply, driving up the prices there?


RE: I like it
By heeros1 on 6/15/2008 3:02:40 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know if that would happen, since silicon is a semiconductor that is extracted from sand (very abundant). But if that DOES happen, there are other semiconductors that might work (even if not as good)


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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