Small Wind Turbines Harnessing Gusts With Solar’s Lease SuccessChristopher Martin
Urban Green Energy Inc., a manufacturer of wind turbines small enough to be placed on residential rooftoops, received $20 million in backing to install systems that will power mobile-phone towers in remote locations.
Urban Green, based in New York, will use the financing from Tamra-Tacoma Capital Partners to market its small-scale systems to telecommunication companies that currently use diesel generators at off-grid sites that lack power lines, said Chief Executive Officer Nick Blitterswyk.
The trade group GSMA has estimated that mobile-phone service providers add about 75,000 off-grid towers a year in developing countries. Urban Green’s systems may supply as much as 90 percent of the power needed to run such towers, Blitterswyk said.
“There’s a huge opportunity for telecoms to reduce their energy costs with renewables,” Blitterswyk said today in an interview.
“We have a product that requires as little attention as a solar panel, and that becomes very important when you can only reach a tower by helicopter or donkey,” he said.
Their turbines range in height from 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) for a 200-watt model to 9.6 meters (31.5 feet) for a 10 kilowatt system. A commercial system for mobile-phone towers costs less than $100,000, Blitterswyk said.
Urban Green installs and maintains the systems. The telecommunication companies pay little to nothing upfront and agree to buy the power under long-term contracts. The model is similar to solar leases offered by companies including SolarCity Corp.
“With a leasing structure like SolarCity uses we can reach a lot more telecoms a lot quicker,” Blitterswyk said. “There’s clearly a need.”
Urban Green’s products use helix-shaped blades that rotate around a vertical axis. The design requires less maintenance than the ubiquitous three-blade turbines favored by most manufactures, he said. The company supplied 14 turbines to help power the Lincoln Financial Field, where the Philadelphia Eagles play.
U.S. consumers and businesses installed 175 megawatts of wind turbines last year to generate their own electricity and reduce their dependence on utilities, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Most of the turbines installed at customer sites were 100 kilowatts or less.