Canada, China sites for WindTronics turbine

August 31, 2009
| By Pete Daly |
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MUSKEGON — The first two assembly plants for a small wind turbine developed by WindTronics of Muskegon will be in Canada and China, according to WindTronics president Reg Adams. He said sales of the wind turbine, which will bear the Honeywell brand, are scheduled to begin through Ace Hardware Stores in November.

"We have confirmed two facilities," said Adams, "One immediate one will be in Canada, because we were awarded some substantial Canadian support and contracts. So it's going to fulfill those needs, and that will be moving ahead by the last quarter of this year."

Adams declined to identify the location of the Canadian plant until Sept. 8, but he said it will initially be a 75,000-square-foot facility that eventually will employ about 230.

Adams said a second site has been selected in China for assembly of the Honeywell Wind Turbine for sale there, beginning some time in spring 2010. He said Chinese government entities would be the market for those turbines.

WindTronics will open about six assembly plants over the next couple of years or so, according to Adams, with some plants expected to be located in the United States.

"We have not selected the U.S. sites yet," he said.

Adams said a number of Michigan companies are already producing parts for the WindTronics turbine, including JR Automation Technologies LLC near Holland; Profab Inc. in Muskegon; and Shape Corp. of Grand Haven.

Plans call for 5,000 turbines to be assembled and shipped each month by next spring, according to Adams.

In May, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority offered WindTronics $3.7 million worth of 10-year abatements on state taxes if the company chose Muskegon for one of its assembly plants.

The WindTronics turbine has 10 blades that sweep an area 6 feet in diameter. The complete unit weighs 165 pounds, according to Adams, and will generate up to 2 kilowatts of power under peak wind conditions. It is expected to produce an average of about 2,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year under Class 4 wind conditions, or wind averaging about 12 miles per hour. The average American home, according to Adams, uses about 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

The WindTronics turbine, which has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of about $5,000 (not including installation), was developed and patented by Imad Mahawili, the former director of the GVSU Michigan Alternative & Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon. Mahawili is now WindTronics' chief technical adviser.

Adams said the design is "the first patented technology for a blade tip power system" for generating electricity via wind.

In a conventional wind turbine, the rotating blades turn a central shaft on which magnets spin inside a copper coil, where the electricity is generated. In Mahawili's invention, the turbine blades are mounted on a free-wheeling hub. The magnets are in the tips of the blades, which spin inside an outer ring that contains the coil. The blade tips are moving much faster than the central shaft would be, thus generating more electricity per mile per hour of wind speed. According to the current WindTronics Web site (www.earthtronics.com), the Honeywell Wind Turbine can begin producing electricity at wind speeds of 2 miles per hour, while conventional turbines require 7 miles per hour or more.

The Honeywell Wind Turbine was publicly unveiled in early May at the 2009 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. Honeywell has entered into a distribution deal with WindTronics, using the Honeywell brand, because Honeywell has a large number of consumer products aimed at the homeowners market, according to Adams.

The turbine has been featured twice this summer in the online edition of Popular Mechanics magazine, and more publicity in a major national business publication is forthcoming, according to Adams.

Adams said Popular Mechanics has also advised him that the WindTronics turbine will be the focus of an award from the magazine in October.

Adams is also the president of EarthTronics Inc. in Muskegon, a North American distributor of energy-efficient light bulbs manufactured in China. EarthTronics will also distribute the WindTronics turbine through its retail channels.

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