When the term “wind turbine” comes to mind, you usually think of hulking goliaths that dominate the landscape. And in fact, as I wrote about last November, there is a dramatic trend toward large wine turbines that generate more electricity. At the same time though, turbines with seven-feet-long blades are popping up on the tops of office and apartment buildings in Michigan, and elsewhere. Tom Huff, an urban developer, put one of the mini turbines on top of a 10-story building he was renovating in Kalamazoo, MI. The turbine needs winds of at least 8 mph to generate electricity, and under optimal conditions, could generate 2,000 kilowatt-hours a year. Huff figure he will recover the cost of the turbine in five years with the help of a significant federal tax credit. The average installed cost of the Swift Turbine is $10,000 to $12,000.
Huff’s turbine was manufactured in nearby Grand Rapids by Cascade Engineering, which invested in a business that developed the turbine called Renewable Devices Swift Turbines Ltd. of Edinburgh, Scotland. Cascade made the investment after discovering it could reduce the cost by injection molding a rotor, which previously had been manufactured with a labor intensive process using expensive carbon fiber. Cascade now makes the rotors and distributes the turbines.
Most of the new 3D printers and 3D printing technologies in this crop are breaking some boundaries, whether it's build volume-per-dollar ratios, multimaterials printing techniques, or new materials types.
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