Small is Beautiful: Helix Power’s Weinbrandt Sees a Small Wind Turbine On Every Rooftop

Scott Weinbrandt spent 25 years working in computer technology, including 10 years as an executive at Dell, the direct-sales computer giant, as well as time as a senior vice president at Gateway, the onetime San Diego computer maker that is now part of Acer. During that time, the computer industry moved from centralized mainframes to distributed personal computers.

Now Weinbrandt says he’s seeing the same trend emerging in the renewable energy sector as the president and chairman of Helix Wind, a San Diego startup that specializes in vertical-axis wind turbines. “Big wind is getting a big pushback,” Weinbrandt says.

While many companies are still pursuing big centralized wind farm projects, such as the one near Palm Springs, CA, there’s also a movement to install smaller wind turbines in backyards and on rooftops.

Helix Wind's turbineIf he’s right about the trend, Weinbrandt has positioned Helix Wind (OTC: HLXW) to catch the prevailing breeze by targeting urban residential and commercial customers. “If you look at what we’re doing, our goal is to be the No. 1 small wind solutions provider,” Weinbrandt says.

The helical-shaped turbines developed by Helix Wind founders Ian Gardner and Ken Morgan are visually stunning—they look so much like spinning sculptures that Weinbrandt says some customers are buying them for the product’s aesthetic value. So-called Savonius turbines, such as Helix Wind’s iconic design, are usually considered less efficient at generating electricity than propeller-driven turbines with a horizontal axis. But Weinbrandt says a key benefit of the helical platform is its ability to operate at high torque in lower wind speeds—and to continue operating at high wind speeds.

“What we’ve done is take it to another level,” Weinbrandt says, noting Helix has 43 IP filings in the U.S. and elsewhere, with one patent pending at two trademarks received. “This technology has been refined and one of the key components is the ability to start up in light winds and still sustain high winds without shutting down. Most of our competitors have to shut down at 40 miles per hour.” The cleantech company says it competes with a variety of other vertical-axis turbine makers in the U.S., including Oregon Wind of Portland, OR, and Mariah Power of Reno, NV.

While Helix counts more than 250 different types of small … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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