A number of smaller companies have started to promote wind turbines for use in urban settings. The industry is still in its infancy and the cost per kW is still high, but the urban setting represents a large unused space, and connecting to the grid will not represent any significant cost unlike large-scale wind farms in rural settings.
The announcement represents an effort to make the business case for urban wind turbines. In addition to Helix Wind Corp (OTCBB: HLWX), there are a number of other players in the field including AeroVironment(NASDAQ:AVAV) (NASDAQ:AVAV), Mariah Power – Reno, Nevada, Everwind Power Corp. - Ontario, Canada, Cascade Engineering. Established small wind turbine manufactures such as Southwest Windpower are also looking at the space and in partnership with the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, the Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Science, is installing a rooftop Wind Turbine Lab this summer.
The urban wind turbine has at least two challenges compared to traditional large wind turbines. First of all is the size per unit. Large-scale wind turbines are rated at 1MW and higher whereas the urban wind turbines are rated between 1.5kW and 20kW, so you need anywhere from 50 to 700 urban wind turbines to match a large scale wind turbine. The other challenge is cost per kW. The urban wind turbine currently cost at least $5,000/kW whereas a large-scale wind turbine has a capital cost of around $1,100/kW. However, if any of the urban wind turbines gets into large-scale production, it can be anticipated that the cost can be reduced significantly. A company like Cascade Engineering should be well positioned to do this, whereas other players would benefit from a strategic relationship with a manufacturing company.
A large plus for the urban wind turbine it its proximity to the load centers and no extra transmission or distribution infrastructure should be needed to accommodate them. Typically, all their electricity production could be used locally within the building where they are located. This is in stark contrast with large scale wind farms, which often needs extra transmission infrastructure and add significant extra cost to the overall project.