Ever thought about off-grid living? It’s quite a step but you can decide to try it out somewhat by buying a personal wind turbine. There are several on the market. Next September a true designer personal wind turbine hits the shops, designed by no one less than Philippe Starck.
The French designer, mostly known for his minimalist furniture, proclaimed design 'dead' a few months ago, but it appears the man is not done yet. Starck outsourced the technical part of wind turbine to Pramac, a company which manufactures mostly generators. The resulting product is called the ‘Democratic Ecology’, a name that sounds heavy but that’s because Starck has ‘seen the light’ and is dedicated to saving the planet. The turbine itself is feather light and looks mostly smooth. It’s made from a transparent polycarbonate and looks astoundingly cool. Starck has also designed a less eye catching version.
The Starck design complements a handful of other personal wind turbines already on the market. Most of these are priced at around $1,000 to $3,000. They all look like miniature versions of the larger wind turbines in commercial wind parks often in inhospitable places. The personal variety can be placed on a 5 meter pole in your backyard. Alternatively you can place a wind turbine on a high roof top. A mini wind turbine will generate on average a couple of kW of electricity power which is in battery banks of various makes. When you access the power, it passes through an inverter which makes the voltage of electricity your home needs.
What you need to watch out for is that some turbines generate quite a bit of noise and they might also need permission from your local authorities. If you want an absolutely cheap wind turbine, it might be worth holding out for the September release of the Starck design, because it’s about the cheapest model around. I don’t know how design usually works, but I would guess that you pay mostly for the work Pramac put in and that the stunning looks Philippe Starck created should be considered a gift from nature because the wind turbine costs only $633 or EUR400.
I found another personal wind turbine that’s even cheaper and which comes with some more information on the technical front. Apart from making your own wind turbine (not too difficult), you won’t find one that’s a lot cheaper than the Air-X mini wind turbine. Its inventors say the thing powers any size battery bank from 25 to 25,000 amp hours or higher. It will work at wind speeds starting at 7 miles per hour (3.13 m/s). I would guess that the Democratic Ecology would power about the same kind of voltage. A person commenting on a Treehugger article featuring the Air-x believes that the cost of the pole on which the Air-X is placed is probably higher than the rotor blades. I am not sure if I agree because your average flag pole is easily five meters high and you’d have a day job to spot one that’s given the ghost. The Air-X, has been sophisticated repeatedly and apparently is almost noise free. It's priced at $590.
A popular wind turbine in the UK, the Micro Wind Turbine- has been in use for donkeys’ years in sailing boats. This turbine is highly visible in built-up urban areas throughout the UK. It is specifically designed to supplement national grid electricity but it generates only a couple of hundred watts of power every few hours so it’s only reliable for energy savings light bulbs on a windy day.
It’s very likely that the Democratic Ecology wind turbine will have similar technical specs to the Air-X but I can't tell you for sure. Inquiries to Pramac's Italian offices went unanswered.