WILBRAHAM – Fresh off a double victory in a prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology competition for clean energy technologies, the FloDesign Wind Turbine Corp. is readying the prototype for its unconventional turbine and looking for a location in Massachusetts to give it a test run.
The Wilbraham-based company won the inaugural $200,000 MIT Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Prize last month as well as an additional $100,000 in the Ignite Clean Energy competition for its compact wind turbine that more resembles a jet engine atop a pole than a typical long-bladed wind mill.
“The competition was pretty fierce. There were more than 200 applicants,” said Stanley Kowalski III, the company’s chief executive officer.
For both awards, the judges assessed not only each entrant’s technology but also its business plan.
FloDesign Wind Turbine Corp. was spun off from FloDesign Inc., which was founded in 1990 as a research and development company that adapts aerospace technologies to develop and market new products.
Kowalski said computer models by independent laboratories have shown that its wind turbines can generate two to three times more power than conventional turbines, in part because they are more efficient and in part because they are smaller and can be packed more densely. Also, because the FloDesign turbine can operate in lower speed winds, it is suitable for locations conventional turbines are not, he said.
“We’re now embarking on commercialization. We’re building the prototype in Wilbraham, and installation of the prototype is planned for six to eight months from now,” Kowalski said.
The company is searching for a test site for the prototype, which would be 12 feet in diameter, most likely in Massachusetts, he said.
“It has to be a good wind site, but the proximity to Wilbraham is important for debugging (problems that arise).”
He said inland New England is not known for its opportunities for wind power.
“New England has ridge lines. We don’t have the vast expanses (where the wind is strong) like the Plains or on the West Coast. But our turbine is uniquely suited for sites like ridge lines because it’s smaller. Traditional turbines require extremely long trucks to transport them, and it’s tough to get them up a mountain road,” Kowalski said.
“Also, on ridge lines you can only extract so much energy. If you can only put two or three conventional turbines on one, it might not make much sense. But because our turbine is smaller, you can pack them closer together. So there would be more opportunities for our turbine in New England,” he said.
One location Kowalski said the company might consider is the ridge line of Mount Tom, where an experimental University of Massachusetts wind turbine has long been located. There are already roads and utility lines leading to the ridge.
FloDesign Wind Turbine is looking to hire at least 15 people, including electrical and civil engineers, with salary ranges between $40,000 and $90,000 a year. In April, the firm received a $500,000 loan from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the state’s economic development agency, to develop the prototype.
By Stan Freeman
9 June 2008
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