Instead of waiting (and paying) for giant solar farms and mega-scale transmission lines to be built, you could start generating your own clean energy tomorrow, for 60% below retail prices! Small-scale privately owned renewable energy solutions are becoming increasingly popular as an approach to fighting global warming and building energy independence. (Efficiency guru Amory Lovins is one fan.) Now household wind could become more of a household name thanks to a $10 million investment by GE with other investors in the world’s largest manufacturer of small wind turbines, Southwest Windpower.
Southwest's Skystream, shown here, can provide anywhere from 40% to as much as 90% of a home’s electricity; other models provide up to 3KW for commercial use. This technology is available to homeowners today with a 4 to 5 year average payback (depending on how good your site is for wind and how high your current bills are). Obama's stimulus package just introduced a 30% tax credit to help seal the deal.
GE spokesperson Kevin Skillern sees big potential for small wind: "The market is currently just $100 million in total sales, but has been growing 40 to 50% a year for a handful of years. What we see is really a transition point where the combination of stimulus programs and technology advancements make this a highly economic purchase for nearly half of the U.S. population."
This is a strategic investment for GE—Skillern says a dozen different collaborations are being considered with different parts of the company. For example, the smart grid technologies they are developing help small-scale renewables connect to the grid. And GE, of course, long ago mastered the appliance business—maybe they can help make home power generation as easy as they make it to plug in a washer-dryer.