Icelandic renewable energy company IceWind is now launching its innovative six-bladed wind-powered turbines for home use in the U.S.
Wind now accounts for 7.2% of power generated in the United States, and IceWind says that will be around 20% in less than a decade, by 2030. But most of that is the huge horizontal turbines you see in commercial wind farm applications with blades the length of a 747. All green energy is good — although there are concerns with bird loss — but it’s hardly something a homeowner can install.
The new Freya model from IceWind, which starts at $3,200, is an entirely different design.
“What we have designed over at IceWind is actually a vertical axis wind turbine,” Samuel Gerbus, one of IceWind’s mechanical engineers, told me recently on the TechFirst podcast. “The large difference is those big turbines, when wind comes from different directions you either need to use a gearbox to change those blades to face that wind direction, or stop them and change it. Vertical axis wind turbines are omni-directional. We can take wind from any direction.”
The six-bladed design is on purpose: inner blades provide low start-up speeds, Gerbus told me, and also act as a brake when wind speeds get too high.
In addition, the design is safer for home installation — no huge whirling propellor-like blades — and “completely safe” for birds. the company says. They’re also quiet: under 30 decibels of noise.
The other major benefit for home owners who want to supplement their power on-grid or completely power an off-grid cabin is durability. According to Gerbus, the turbines are built to withstand winds of “more than 130 mile per hour winds,” and are sealed against dust, ice, water, or dirt entering the generator. Made from aluminum and stainless steel, the blades will last significantly longer than those constructed with nylon fiber, steel, plastic, or fiberglass. The company is, after all, based in Iceland, which is not known for its long summers and gentle weather. While not as cold as some may think, it experiences relatively constant windiness with occasional hurricane winds up to 160 mph.
That’s an extreme example, of course.
You can’t power your entire house off of one Freya. It will only provide about 150 to 200 watts in about 25 mph winds, Gerbus told me. So you’ll need two or three to power the typical larger U.S. home. IceWind says it will have a larger-scale model capable of 7 to 12 times that power output at some point in the future.
Gerbus wouldn’t provide specifics on the payback period, but said that most renewable energy investments pay back your initial cost in five to ten years.
(I don’t think Tesla’s solar roof falls into that category, but it also does provide a roof, which you need in any case. Tesla solar roofs can cost about $25,000 after federal rebates for a ten kilowatt system.)
Right now, Freya makes sense for supplementary purposes, unless you’re in a windy location, or you want to go all-in with three or more turbines. It’s also a great additional component to a mixed energy source system.
“It really depends on where you are for kind of what renewable source is going to work for you and your region,” Gerbus says. “In Arizona, you’re probably not going to want a wind farm. You’re probably going to want more of a solar array and in a windy, cloudy environment, you’re going to want wind turbines and not more of a solar array. And then, like our company in IceWind that has plenty of geothermal capability, that’s what you utilize there … and I think that’s the most beautiful part because any region, no matter where you are, has some sort of ability to utilize a renewable energy source.”
One other benefit?
If you can assemble IKEA furniture, you can install a Freya, according to Gerbus.
That means I might just be able to make it work.
Get the full transcript of our conversation here.