A home wind turbine already installed at 250 sites in Scotland is now being sold in the U.S. Cascade Engineering said Monday. The Swift wind turbine is available in the U.S. and Canada now and due to it’s low noise and vibration characteristics, it is the first wind-turbine that can fitted directly to the roof of a house, or other building.
A forward-thinking West Michigan business leader inaugurated the next-generation alternative energy business Monday with a small wind turbine that sits atop the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Muskegon, Michigan.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm touted the Swift Wind Turbine, developed by Cascade Engineering and President Fred Keller in conjunction with Renewable Devices of Edinburgh, Scotland, as one of the alternative energy products produced in Michigan that will become the state’s economic future.
Helping the renewable energy sector in Michigan has been recent energy legislation signed by the governor that in part sets a “renewable portfolio standard” for 10 percent renewable electricity generation in the state by 2015.
The state now will allow homeowners and small business owners generating power in excess of their needs to be paid for putting it on the electrical grid system, the governor said.
“This is the first celebration of a Michigan-made wind turbine being installed in Michigan,” Granholm said in the lobby of the Frauenthal behind a real-time, flat-panel readout of how the Swift was producing electricity on the theater’s roof.
Cascade Engineering is a traditional automotive plastics part company that employs 1,000 people in more than a half-dozen locations worldwide. The company has moved into non-automotive manufacturing sectors including waste disposal and alternative energy.
The Swift turbine operation currently employs 15 people. The North American units are assembled here along with all of the rotor blades for the units sold worldwide, company officials said.
The Swift sets itself apart from existing small wind turbines with a design that reduces noise and vibration which means the turbine can be attached to a home, rather than just to a free-standing pole or tower.
Like other wind turbines, the Swift has blades that turn and power a generator. But rather than the typical three blades, the Swift has five and a ring that goes around them. That “outer diffuser” ring cuts the noise level to 35 decibels and reduces vibration, according to the company.
The turbine, with a 7-foot diameter, also has two fins to direct the turbine to face the wind. It can turn 360 degrees and shut down if the wind is too high. It can generate 1.5 kilowatts with 14 mile-per-hour wind and about 2,000 kilowatt-hours over a year, the company said. U.S. households typically consume between 6,500 and 10,000 kilowatt-hours in a year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
At a cost of $10,000 installed, it’s a bit lower than the typical per-watt cost of solar electric panels. But state rebates, the cost of electricity, and the wind or solar resource can make a big difference to the initial costs. The payback on these costs can be as low as three years, but it will vary depending on the conditions, and rebates being offered.
The recent federal market bailout legislation also included extension of federal tax credits for renewable energy devices that Cascade Engineering will use to help market the 1.5-kilowatt units, which cost about $10,000 depending upon installation. Each residential unit can receive a $1,000 federal tax credit and a commercial unit can reap $4,000, Cascade officials said.