I’ve got a story this morning in the Toronto Star about Michigan-based EarthTronics (WindTronics) and its plans to establish a 5,000-unit a month manufacturing plant in Windsor, an Ontario city hit hard by the decline in the auto sector. The Windsor plant will employ about 200 people and should be up and running by the end of the year, a source close to the company told me. Reg Adams, president of EarthTronics, confirmed that he’s in advanced negotiations with the Ontario government but wouldn’t say if the destination will be Windsor. Word is that EarthTronics, which has licensed the Honeywell brand for its product, will take over an old Magna International autoparts plant. Adams said to expect an announcement by mid-September.
This certainly won’t save Windsor, which has the highest jobless rate in Canada, but it will inject a bit of optimism in the City of Roses, which neighbours Detroit. The Honeywell turbine, it should be explained, is a small-wind turbine designed to go on residential and commercial building rooftops. It measures about six feet in diameter and weights about 95 pounds. It has a nameplate capacity of 2 kilowatts and, under Class 4 wind conditions, can generate about 2,000 kilowatt-hours a year, according to the company’s Web site. It’s more likely, however, the unit would produce about 1,200 kilowatt-hours a year in average Ontario wind conditions. The turbine has a unique design — i.e. it has no gearbox or generator at the core; rather, it generates power from the magnets lined along a wheel that connects its blade tips. This, the company claims, allows it to start generating power at wind speeds as low as 1.6 miles per hour, compared to conventional turbine designs that typically require 8 miles per hour. The reason is low resistance because a gearbox is no longer required.
Adams said there is considerable international interest in the turbine and that EarthTronics has plans to build six manufacturing plants around the globe, including China. This could bring some much-needed profile to the small-wind market, though it remains to be seen if the Honeywell turbine works as quietly and efficiently promised.