WindStream's SolarMill is a New Kind of Hybrid
Read this in our November issue of Energy Digital!
When it comes to large-scale renewable, space can be an issue.
This is particularly true when it comes to island nations. In recent years, the first course of action has been to look to offshore solutions, be it wind or solar. Development in technology has driven this even further, with the advent of floating offshore installations allowing renewable energy producers to harness energy more effectively and in places they might not have been able to previously.
While this is certainly an innovative solution to an unavoidable problem, one company has approached it from a different angle by combining several forms of renewable energy together to form a compact generating device that takes up significantly less space than its larger counterparts.
This new piece of hardware comes from Indiana’s WindStream Technologies. The SolarMill is a hybrid solar panel and wind turbine installation that has unmatched energy density. The SolarMill can also be deployed in markets where there isn’t enough solar or wind potential to be worth deploying one or the other on its own.
So, who is WindStream and how is the SolarMill changing the game when it comes to renewable energy installations?
From Concept to Completion
WindStream got its start in 2008 with hopes of engineering and designing a renewable energy device that was accessible and widely available on a global scale.
2009 saw the company set up its R&D arm at the Purdue Research Center in New Albany, Indiana. WindStream allied itself with Purdue, gaining support and resources from the university. It needed all the help it could get, as it aimed to design a device that was not only revolutionary, but needed to be produced on a mass scale.
In 2011, with several years of prototyping under its belt, the company set up a production facility in North Vernon, Indiana, where it still produces its turbines currently.
Since then, the company has split its operations between India/South Asia and the US.
Today, the company is still expanding into emerging markets.
The Wind beneath Its Panels
Bette Midler jokes aside, the SolarMill is literally wind turbines with solar panels on top. It’s extremely compact, with its 1 panel units only 1.45m wide and .70m deep. This compact size allows a large number of them to fit in a small space.
There are different models with multiple panels, but the design essentially remains the same.
In addition to the space saving measures of the panels, it also has a number of other advantages. Because of the hybrid nature of the panels, it can produce power 24-hours a day. WindStream touts the further versatility of the hybrid panels by noting their on and off grid capabilities.
The unit is also incredibly durable, able to withstand temperatures from -30°C to 50°C.
Essentially, the device is designed to be deployed in nearly environment and be able to produce a substantial amount of energy. Especially since there’s minimal maintenance required, it’s a workable solution for making renewable energy more accessible.
Meyers, Fletcher, and Gordon
The most notable deployment of SolarMill tech is on the Meyers, Fletcher, and Gordon law firm in Kingston, Jamaica. The installation, which came online in late July, is the world largest hybrid solar and wind farm. It was a very lucrative investment for the firm, since they’re expecting to see returns on their investment in only 4 years.
“We have been at the forefront of the Jamaican legal landscape for 70 years and we are pleased to be continuing that trend by leading in Jamaican sustainability and renewable energy,” Meyers, Fletcher, and Gordon’s CEO Donovan Cunningham said. “This was a bold undertaking and we expect to reap rich rewards through our partnership with WindStream.”
The partnership was also lucrative for WindStream, as they hope to do more work in nations like Jamaica.
“We are proud to be working with JPS, which is distributing our products within Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean,” WindStream COO Travis Campbell said. “This SolarMill installation is an excellent model for other businesses to follow. If you are interested in energy efficiency and saving money, SolarMills are a simple, cost-effective solution.”
A Bright and Blustery Future
With the success of the Jamaica deployment, WindStream is expanding rapidly into various international markets.
The company formed WindStream Energy Technologies, a subsidiary, and opened a second office in India in June in order to better break into the Asian market.
“This country is perfect for WindStream's SolarMill technology,” Venkat Kumar Tangirala, President of WET, said. “India is a vast market that is in need of new sources of renewable energy and the ease of use and efficiency for the SolarMill has already garnered great interest and traction with customers and government agencies throughout the country.”
WindStream is also looking to break into the Japanese market and will provide energy-efficient lighting company Tosmo with SolarMills.
“Tosmo has recently displayed the SolarMill at trade shows throughout Japan, including this year's Grand Renewable Energy Show in Tokyo to an overwhelmingly positive response” Tosmo CEO Shigeo Ozawa said. “This is the right product at the right time for our marketplace.”
The company is also working on projects at home in the U.S. In partnership with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, WindStream is developing a portable trailer for first responders that runs on renewable energy. The design is based around the SolarMill technology, though it was adapted to meet the needs of the IDHS.
“With the push of a button the system automatically deploys, greatly reducing the time to set up a command center and begin powering the needed equipment that serves such a critical role in any response environment,” Dan Harris, Executive Vice President at WindStream Technologies, said. “As an American manufacturer, we are very proud to have created a solution which meets the needs of Homeland Security while at the same time opens the door to provide the technology to not only US government agencies but other countries faced with the same mobile challenge.”
WindStream’s success can be attributed to its adaptability. The device can be deployed in a number of scenarios, making it the perfect solution for bringing renewable energy to developing and prosperous nations alike.
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All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.