I talked to Bill Becker a University of Illinois professor who has gone into business with his children building mini wind turbines for city dwellers who have access to moving air.
Becker answered the phone when I called his office on the North Side of Chicago. He says people are calling from all over the world to inquire about his vertical axis turbines which look more like modern sculpture than energy generator.
Becker’s low cost generators cost $15,000 to $20,000 depending on the size. His bigger one has two alternators and a smaller version one. They hook directly into the building power supply, looking like big erector sets of steel tubing. Becker has extensive credentials in the alternative energy field. He invented a solar powered bike, but he’s having a ball now with his own firm Aerotecture International Inc.
He told me he is working out a deal with Abt, a big Chicago retailer of televisions and appliances. Abt wants to go green in their huge showroom warehouse but the management also sees potential in getting into the personal energy generation business. Becker has recently installed a combo wind generator with solar panels at the headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Chicago. The IBEW sees green installations as an important avenue for development of the profession.
The wind farm folks have allied themselves with the electric utilities. Becker says the massive wind generators have their place but it is potentially a lot easier to put a small, mass produced unit on a condo building or bridge than hook up the infrastructure to wind farm on a remote, if windy, mountain side.