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July 6, 2011
Paul Gipe

Honeywell Windtronics WT6500: Report from the Field


Retired civil engineer Lynn Shafer wants to do the right thing and leave the world a better place for future generations. In 2010 he installed 5 kW of solar PV on his house near Sedalia, Missouri. There's not a lot of solar PV in Missouri, the "show me state" and when Shafer installed his system the local paper published a page one spread on the project.

So he expected that installing a small wind turbine would be equally rewarding. That's where Shafer went wrong.

Shafer lives in an area with a Class 1 to Class 2 wind resource--at 50 meters. At a 10 meter hub height where he eventually installed his new wind turbine, the wind resource is much less.

But Shafer new all this that's why he was taken by a product that claimed it worked in very low wind speeds. That product, Windtronics' WT 6500 was on the shelf at his local hardware store. It must be good if his dependable ACE hardware store was selling it.

Windtronics on its web site says the 1.8 meter diameter multi-blade wind turbine will "start" 0.5 mph (0.2 m/s).

This may be a new record in the "starts at low speeds sweepstakes". The web site, though, is careful to not say that the turbine will "cut-in" or start generating electricity at that speed. Elsewhere, the company claims the turbine starts generating electricity at about 5 mph or ~2 m/s, though promoters in Michigan say the turbine will "generate electricity in wind speeds as low as 2 mph" (~1 m/s).

"It's a tremendous disappointment," says Shafer. "In 15 days of operation, the WT6500 has generated less than 1 kWh."

ACE hardware is probably happy. It's not everyday that a store accustomed to selling Chinese-made shovels and hand tools sells a $9,000 product. Then again, a shovel is a shovel, and a hammer is a hammer. A wind turbine is something altogether different.

With the help of his electrician, Shafer installed the turbine on a wooden-utility pole and wired the turbine to an Aurora inverter in the house.

Initial teething problems are fairly typical of any new installation and Shafer's was no different. With the help of Del Loomis at Windtronics' technical support, Shafer got the system operating. That's when the disappointment began to sink in.

All told, Shafer spent $12,500 on the installation. Though ACE Hardware sells the turbine online for $6,500, it doesn't say exactly what you get with that.

Shafer got off comparatively easy. The Detroit News reports that Mike Bratcher, principal of Bratcher Electric Inc. says the turbines cost $11,000 for a rooftop installation and a whopping $13,000 for a pole-mounted turbine like Shafer installed.

Shafer says there are no trees within 75 feet and no obstructions near the turbine. And despite his location in a Class 1 to Class 2 wind regime he was expecting to get at least 1,800 kWh per year.

Reg Adams, Windtronics' president, said that they'd ship an anemometer and data logger to Shafer right away and sort the problem out. The data logger should indicate whether the problem is insufficient wind or a problem with the turbine and inverter.

Windtronics' turbine has been promoted in the marketplace in one form or another at least since 2009.

Windtronics' vice president for technical commercialization Sara Jenan says that the company has more than 100 units in the field. Adams, the company president, wouldn't say exactly how many turbines are in operation.

While Adams won't say how many turbines Windtronics have sold, one of his salesmen was happy to oblige. "We've sold thousands of units across the planet," bragged Brian Levine to the Detroit News. Levine is Windtronics' vice president of business development and marketing.

Adams did say that third-party performance testing on the product will begin this summer and should be completed by the end of the year.

The Windtronics turbine will be tested by both Dynatech Engineering and NTS, says Adams. Another company with a novel wind turbine, Wind Cube, says that Dynatech Engineering was testing their wind turbine to the small wind turbine standard (IEC-61400-2) as well.

See Wind Cube Squarely Over the Top for background on Wind Cube.

Adams, Windtronics' president, said they would publish the results from the third-party tests when they become available.

  • Detroit News: Rooftop turbines give new meaning to being green--But Trudy Forsyth, a wind project leader for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said WindTronics' price to generate 1,500 kilowatt-hours a year is expensive. "This is a real small amount of kilowatt hours," she said. The federal laboratory based in Golden, Colo., doesn't recommend roof-based wind turbines like Klein's because wind speed is reduced, turbulence is intensified and there are safety concerns about pieces falling onto the ground, Forsyth said. "Roof-mounted turbines see a lot of turbulence, and increased turbulence not only reduces the productivity or creation of electricity," but also can lead to premature failure of the system. . .
  • Earthtronic's Honeywell Windtronics WT 6500--A Review--Lest the Honeywell name lend some kind of legitimacy to the WT 6500 note that the Honeywell trademark is simply used under license. Tellingly, "Honeywell International Inc. makes no representation or warranties with respect to this product.". .

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