Robert Yost, President
The theoretical design fundamentals of wind turbines are historically derived from a set of research papers published by German physicist Albert Betz in 1919. Modern simulations have proven the validity of the ever popular Betz’s law, which states that no wind turbine can capture more than 59.3 percent of the kinetic energy in the wind. However, Betz also postulates that by using a much ‘smaller diameter-ed’ windmill with widened (or) increased vanes, higher amounts of power can be generated, which unbeknown to many is essentially one of the fundamental basis of jet engine design. In other words, jet engine turbines bypass Betz’s limit. “We took the jet engine technology and applied it to wind turbines,” says Robert Yost, President at Alabama-based American Wind, which brings to the energy market, a first of its kind micro wind turbine—the MicroCube. “Even though we are often questioned about Betz’s Limit, our product’s performance convinces its skeptics.”
"Our products are designed to deliver universal power generation anywhere in the world"
Unlike other wind turbines technologists who continue to use traditional approaches to gamble with uncertainty-bound, naturally occurring factors, American Wind chose a ‘path less traveled’ and redefined the technology for wind power generation from the inside out. Yost explains that the ideal wind speed range for the optimal performance of conventional wind turbines is a small 10–35 miles per hour window. At lower wind speeds, turbines will require a transmission mechanism to keep their generators running; higher wind speeds call for a robust storage mechanism to contain increased power output. And for all speeds in between, installing regulatory mechanisms to negate fluctuating wind velocities is another burden. Not to mention the fact that wind speed is reduced by a third, upon the wind’s impact on turbine blades, which calls for a large clearance area between wind turbines. An irony: vast stretches of pristine greenery has to be felled to set up the so-called ‘eco-friendly’ wind farms. To a degree, the same holds true for solar farms. While having rotor blades with large diameters is proportional to the energy output, their sizes are limited by the countering factor within excessive blade peripheral velocity. In a nutshell, uncertainties associated with wind availability, speed, as well as density has always been undesirable; and technical overheads to re-route around them have been historically massive. This is where American Wind turns the tables.
Going Small to Make Big Gains
Be it in terms of size, methods of installation, or energy output, the innovation within MicroCube redefines wind power generation
Be it size, methods of installation, or energy output, the innovation packed within MicroCube has revolutionized wind power generation. The 9X9X13 inch ducted wind turbine, weighing just about 9 pounds, delivers nearly 1,000 times more energy than a solar panel of similar dimensions. The underlying technological concept within a MicroCube is ‘going from big-to-small’ to reduce losses in energy production. To achieve the feat the team at American Wind went through rigorous R&D, to re-create from scratch the smallest possible alternators and design unique turbines. The design is based on the blueprints of jet engine airplanes to harness the wind energy to the maximum.
MicroCube features a closed blade design; while traditional wind turbines’ blades use only about 3 percent of the wind surface area, for MicroCube, it is more than 90 percent. Hence, the turbine is receptive to speeds ranging from as low as 1.5 miles/hour to 140 miles/hour, and therefore, is capable of running for up to 22 hours on a typical day. Furthermore, MicroCube’s build material is that of a composite plastic material AT2LAS which equals to the strength of steel and yet is 40 percent lighter than aluminum. This material property of MicroCube eliminates the buildup of static electricity, which in turn renders the device safe to be installed almost anywhere—on balconies to roof of buildings to outdoors, without the need to cut down trees. Yost asserts that the service life of a MicroCube spans up to 30 years, nearly twice that of solar panels. “There are only two wearing parts in the entire system; its maintenance requirements are extremely low unlike traditional wind turbines that have a lifespan of only about three years on the gearbox and generators,” adds Yost. These capabilities make MicroCube a strong contender in green energy generation with the lowest carbon footprint.
Standing true to the idea that necessity is the mother of innovation, it was Yost’s wife who first brought the idea of using a device as small as a pedestal fan to generate power without the significant investment of massive wind turbines. The revolutionary idea emanated in the backdrop of the 2011 Alabama tornadoes where the region was cut-off from power for almost a week. Yost’s vast experience, gained over the years working on projects with GE Aircraft Engines, Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Engines, and Boeing, added the substrate and gave a physical form to this idea.
Installing MicroCubes is possibly the closest, one could ever get to generating energy from thin air; it’s genuinely a motion against the conventional; for the greater good.
Purpose-Built Product Line
Having developed the core technology stack and building a ‘power product’ out of it, the next stride that American Wind took was to plan MicroCube’s go-to-market strategy, in terms of purpose-specific rollout, installation, and maintenance and support. The very build design of the MicroCube, with groves on its sides, allows it to be stacked or held together like Lego blocks. Collective deployment of MicroCubes enables energy generation at monumental scale. It just takes about 16 MicroCubes to power a house of 2,000 square feet.
American Wind also offers WindWall, a stack of 50 MicroCubes. WindWall is ideal for oceanfront properties and large buildings. The company’s Advanced WindWall offering has 100 MicroCubes with a geared motor base to keep the turbines turned toward wind at all times, thereby, making it ideal for areas with changing wind directions. While a 2MW traditional wind turbine will require about 1.5 acres of land (considering clearance area), a WindWall assembly on an acre of land can generate 19 MW. TriCube, as its name suggest, is a stack of three MicroCubes and finds an ideal use for street lamps that can work independent of the grid.
On request from the U.S. military, American Wind has built Microsphere, which is a ‘portable, foldable, backpack-able’ version of the MicroCube. “In our Advanced WindWall, we can have up to a 100kWh of the battery. One of the companies we are working with is a battery storage technology provider that has designed battery backup that can fit in each MicroCube. For maintenance purposes, we provide tools to monitor control boxes where all the electricity goes, and we can produce reports on an hourly basis, on the performance of each MicroCube,” adds Yost.
MicroCube has gained immense interest from data centers and the oil rigs sector. After all, they are amongst the industrial entities that set aside huge investments to source power. American Wind can, in a snap, eliminate the need to transport diesel for power generation, and as well do away with dependency on miles long transmission lines. Green energy is waiting to be tapped right from the backyard! The potential of the MicroCube and its due recognition has led American Wind to build distribution networks across India, Japan, Korea, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Brazil to name a few. In the near future, the company will also roll out a consumer-centric version of MicroCubes. “Our products are designed to deliver universal power generation anywhere in the world. We have not gone against Betz’s Law; we just found a way to reroute around and build upon his postulates.It is just that over the last 100 years since Betz’s postulate, nobody had forayed to do what we have built,” concludes Yost.