A Personal Turbine Makes Your Rooftop Into a Wind Farm

Rooftop Wind Farm
Honeywell WT6500 Wind Turbine by WindTronics, $10,000 (est.; includes installation)Kevin Hand

Among homeowners, wind energy has never caught on, in large part because personal turbines are often noisy and inefficient. Most turbines need strong winds to turn a heavy central generator and create current, a design with two main disadvantages. First, the gears make a lot of noise. Plus, the generator is positioned at the blades' center, which moves at one tenth the speed of the periphery. And less speed translates to less power.

Honeywell's wheel-shaped WT6500 takes an entirely new approach. Magnets mounted near the tips of its 20 blades sweep through an outer ring of copper coils to produce a current, making the entire wheel the generator. Because this arrangement traps energy from the fast-moving blade tips and eliminates the heavy central generator, the WT6500 can pull a current from winds as slow as two miles an hour (most home turbines need 8mph gusts). Better suited to home use than other turbine designs, the wheel is six feet in diameter, whisper-quiet, and can produce up to 1,500 kilowatt-hours of power per year—enough to replace about 15 percent of an average household's energy bill. Depending on an area's clean-energy incentives, the turbine can pay for itself in only a couple of years, though most owners will make back their investment in five to 10.

HOW IT WORKS

  • A flap on either side of the wheel catches wind, which spins the turbine toward the gusts.
  • The wind moves the turbine wheel, including its 20 blades.
  • The blade tips contain rare-earth metal magnets. As they sweep through copper coils in the outer frame, they generate a DC current.
  • An inverter [not shown] gathers the current. It can store the power in a battery or convert it to AC for immediate use.