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A New Wind Power Design Good For Rural And Urban Environments


Wind power is one of the fastest growing forms of alternative energy in the world. More and more, wind power mills are seen in the countryside, in large wind farms and for the most part, away from city life. But a new form of "wind power" is now designed to work in an urban environment. VOA producer Zulima Palacio has more in this Searching for Solutions report. Mill Arcega narrates.

Wind farms, like these ones in California, are becoming more common in rural areas of the U.S. An industry association says last year, alone, wind power capacity in America grew by 45 percent. Mostly wind power is generated by large propellers that can only be placed in the countryside.

But now, a U.S. company is offering a propeller-free personal windmill that can be set up in city or suburb. The president of Mariah Power, Mike Hess, demonstrates what he calls the "Windspire."

"This one generates 25 to 30 percent of the power in your house, but if we are building a three kilowatts version, which is only twice the width, same height, then it generates 100 percent of your power requirements," Hess said.

This new system was part of an environmentally friendly exhibit at the U.S. Botanical Garden in Washington. The design was inspired by a 3,000 year-old windmill the Egyptians used to grind wheat.

The company had the modern version independently tested, here in Utah, to prove it can be competitive with large propellers of traditional windmills.

The large blades have been known to kill birds and bats. And because they move much faster than wind speeds, they can be noisy.

But Hess says the Windspire's verticle-axis wind turbine is not only very quiet, but also bird-friendly.

"Bird friendly yes, because they only spin at two and a half times the speed of wind, so they can see it." He explained.

Hess says the company has begun installing the nine-meter tall devices, which can plug into household power. And customers can see on their home computers how much electricity the Windspire is giving them.

Hess says, "This is the wireless connector which allows them to tell how much power is being produced, it allows the to tell how fast the wind is blowing, all of that comes out in a computer read out," he said.

The new windmill design attracts the curiosity of tourists and passersby, many who might find the Windspire an affordable way to help power their homes.

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