Looking like a warped piece of fluorescent green plastic, an unusual 'micro wind turbine' was unveiled at the end of February at Portland State University by Woodstock resident Brad Malsin, and his business partner Toby Kinkaid.
Malsin, the head of Beam Development, which owns the East Bank Commerce Center, and Kinkaid, an inventor, are the driving force behind 'Oregon Wind Corporation', which is launching its vertical, propeller-less wind turbine.
Originally from New York, Woodstock resident Malsin introduced himself to the packed audience as someone who moved to Portland, and then founded Oregon Wind Corporation, because he felt Portland was more receptive to new ideas and new technology.
'I have relatives in New York,' he said. 'When I tell them I drive a biodiesel car, they think I'm crazy,' Malsin said. 'We're spending a lot of time and money trying to do things here that people elsewhere have dismissed.'
In the public-private partnership announced on February 27th, Portland State University has become the urban testing ground for this new wind technology. The turbines will be installed at four locations on campus, with engineers monitoring the turbines' performance. They will measure wind speed, humidity, temperature, altitude, and generated electricity output.
According to Kincaid, the 'Helyx Wind Generator' is ideal technology, because birds can see--and thus avoid--its brightly-colored, wide-revolving surface. 'It's also silent, costs much less than solar panels, can be shipped, resists corrosion, and is easy to maintain,' he said.
'This has no footprint. And the parts are very inexpensive to manufacture,' added Kincaid, explaining that the device has only 11 parts, including the large piece of molded plastic. 'What you're looking at--the bracket, post, and even the generator--costs less than $100.'
Designed to be placed on poles or atop buildings, a Helyx Wind Generator could also be installed on a post next to a house, or on the roof; but that application requires more study. 'We have put these on mountaintops and in deserts--and now, in an urban environment. But we don't know how many days of wind in Oregon it will take to power a house.'
Still, one aim of the turbine is to provide, where there is wind, the means for people to easily and affordably generate the energy that they consume.
'The electric bill in Los Angeles is $38 billion. In Oregon, it's $2.9 billion. With this renewable technology, once you pay for the hardware, there are no fuel costs, and no toxicity,' Malsin said. And the cost benefit is very positive in most environments, he added; especially factoring in the social benefits of reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
'You can't look at fossil fuel technology without weighing the other costs,' Malsin added. "What does the war in Iraq cost us?'
Kincaid estimated it will be about one year before Oregon Wind will start marketing its product.
'We're anxious to get to market,' added Malsin; 'but we have to have a lot of eyes and ears to make sure we've got the bugs out.'