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Agriculture silos could be used for vertical wind turbines

Published on September 24th, 2012 | by Tina Casey

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Air Force Vet Converts Silos to Low-Cost Wind Turbines for Small Farms



 
A U.S. Air Force veteran from Arkansas has won a chunk of funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a new venture called Agri Wind Turbines, to develop a low-cost wind turbine that uses compressed air funneled from existing or new silos. The idea is to provide small- and medium-sized farms with access to affordable wind power, especially in regions where “free-range” wind conditions are not ideal for conventional wind turbines.

silos could be used for vertical wind turbines

Small Farms, Big Wind Power

Insulating small and mid-sized farms from potentially devastating energy price spikes is a significant challenge for the U.S. agriculture sector. Agri Wind Turbines founder and president Jeff Brown says that his idea for wind power for small farms could work out financially for independent farmers working on thin margins, since they could use their existing infrastructure and grid connection to support a modest wind energy investment.

He anticipates that a vertical axis wind turbine design would provide enough energy for most of a typical small or mid-sized farm’s electricity needs. The grid connection would come into play in cases where the turbine generates excess energy, which the farmer could sell back to the local utility.


 
If the technology works out, the silo-based wind energy investment could become part of the sustainable farming toolkit. It would work out especially well for farmers who are taking advantage of President Obama’s Rural Energy for America program, which has been providing millions in grants and loans for energy-efficient grain dryers, solar power installations, and other improvements.

Another rural energy program that could come into play is AgStar, under which the Obama Administration has been encouraging livestock farmers to install energy-saving manure-to-biogas equipment.

Yep, We Built This!

It’s also worth noting that Mr. Brown’s endeavor has all the markings of a small, innovative business rooted in personal inspiration, hard work and willingness to take risks, along with the resourcefulness to take advantage of the available support network, aka publicly funded programs.

That includes participating in the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) Federal and State Technology mentoring program, and winning a Technology Transfer Assistance Grant from the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority in 2011.

The Technology Transfer grant has gone to support Brown’s market research, and the USDA grant of $100,000 is being used to test the feasibility of the technology through computer modeling.

For Brown, the rewards of success will not only be a benefit to him. He’ll also be able to realize a personal goal of helping more of his fellow state residents build careers in Arkansas, both in agriculture and in the wind power sector.

That sounds like something presidential candidate Mitt Romney might want to consider if he ever wonders whether reformulating his position on wind power might be a good idea.

As Brown explained in a recent article for ASBTDC:

“Arkansas is the number one manufacturer of wind turbines in the U.S. There are really smart people in Arkansas that do not want to live anywhere else. Arkansas is home.”

Image (cropped): Silos. Some rights reserved by dok1.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/ Mike Barnard

    It’s unclear why John Heath is contradicting himself, or even if he is actually given the difficulty of parsing his sentences.

    That said, I supported his assertion from September 25, 2012 that this wasn’t likely to be a viable alternative.

    It turns out — I think — that our reasons were different.

    I think it’s very unlikely to be fiscally viable in general compared to three-blade, horizontal axis wind turbines. In fact, it triggers at least three and likely four of the red flags in this material on assessing wind energy “innovations”: http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/invest-carefully-wind-energy-innovations-are-rarely-kosher/

    As for Mr. Heath, apparently in addition to referring to himself in the third person, he sells technology that also raises red flags.

  • John Heath

    first, this message is for Mike Benard or who ever his says he is on here

    mike benard is not john heath – john heath owns many companies featuring viable renewable energy technologies.
    the
    air compressing wind turbine does sell it is one of our smaller
    products i would like to know if anyone who bashed mr heath his
    companies,or posed as him with a derogatory statements here owns a
    renewable company ?
    you dont even know your facts ,before you cyber troll me learn you facts I
    have thousands of dollars in quote, software, i paid for it i own
    affordable wind turbines ,alternative energy technologies,and affordable
    hydrogen fuels cells my website alone are worth hundreds of thousands
    of dollars and i did it on my own not with tax dollars ,and spending
    100,000 dollars on computers and software to find out if its viable
    doesn’t sound wise and yes i checked him out a little his business
    address is a low income apartment complex ,but since this is supported
    im going to get 100,00 dollars for some new computers ,oh and by the way
    we sell a vertical axis unit 10 kw that goes no top of a grain silo no
    need to hack the grain silo up,so it can still be used for grain
    storage.thanks for the cyber bulling for making a statement when i know
    the renewable sector .

  • Andrew hennessey

    I am building my own vertical axis wind turbine from my own design and it is looking very good I have built others ,prototypes which end up being destroyed by the wind this one is very strong and powerfull and moves really well nearly ready to take out of the workshop could be a market changer andrewhennessey@hotmail.co.uk

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Barnard/604449062 Mike Barnard

    I’m with John Heath. A principal with no background in wind generation, two wind energy buzz phrases — vertical-axis, compressed air — and an unexplained reference to reuse of grain silos doesn’t make for a promising technology.

    I’ll believe this is real when I see it in operation, and I’ll believe it’s economically viable compared to tri-blade, horizontal-axis wind turbines when I see the cold, hard numbers.

    In the meantime, I won’t be holding my breath.

    • John Heath

      first,

      mike benard is not john heath – john heath owns many companies featuring viable renewable energy technologies.
      the
      air compressing wind turbine does sell it is one of our smaller
      products i would like to know if anyone who bashed mr heath his
      companies,or posed as him with a derogatory statements here owns a
      renewable company ?
      you dont even know your facts ,before you cyber troll me learn you facts I
      have thousands of dollars in quote, software, i paid for it i own
      affordable wind turbines ,alternative energy technologies,and affordable
      hydrogen fuels cells my website alone are worth hundreds of thousands
      of dollars and i did it on my own not with tax dollars ,and spending
      100,000 dollars on computers and software to find out if its viable
      doesn’t sound wise and yes i checked him out a little his business
      address is a low income apartment complex ,but since this is supported
      im going to get 100,00 dollars for some new computers ,oh and by the way
      we sell a vertical axis unit 10 kw that goes no top of a grain silo no
      need to hack the grain silo up,so it can still be used for grain
      storage.thanks for the cyber bulling for making a statement when i know
      the renewable sector .

  • John Heath

    giving someone 100,000 dollars to design an idea on a computer ,who lives in an apartment building,has no business address or wind turbine company that produces prototypes or sells product is a waste of tax dollars!

    • Bob_Wallace

      Funding the developments of a promising idea that could create a lot of good American jobs, give us a new source of clean energy and help struggling farmers.

      Seems like a better way to spend tax dollars than to give tax dollar subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

    • Kevin

      Why wouldn’t you use computer software technology to test the design prior to building the prototype? So you would prefer to put money and waste materials for a prototype without testing it first? Since you apparently know so much about Mr. Brown, I’m sure you already know that he comes from a family of farmers and that he grew up farming in rural Arkansas. I’m sure you also know that his family has land, which currently has silos that he’s been getting ready to use as prototypes, well before the $100K grant was awarded to him. Moving forward, his company will be responsible for building and selling wind turbines to the agricultural community, however, extensive research has to be completed, especially when you want to market your product in a very specific niche. I can’t think of a better way for our tax dollars to be spent then for an innovative idea from a military veteran, who devoted & risked his life for this country.

  • TOM JOHNSON

    I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON A SIMILAR APPROACH TO ALTERNATIVE ELECTRIC ENERGY FOR SEVERAL YEARS , AND I HAVE DEVELOPED A METHOD TO OVERCOME THE TURBULENCE AND MAKE THE SYSTEM MORE EFFICIENT AND CAPABLE OF INCREASING HE TOTAL AMOUNT OF ELECTRIC ENERGY CREATED . I WOULD LIKE TO CONFER WITH MR BROWN AND OFFER TO SHARE MY RESEARCH WITH HIM TO MAKE THIS METHOD A SUCCESS FOR AMERICAN FARMERS , AS WELL AS A SIMILAR SMALLER SYSTEM THAT CAN BE USED BY THE AVERAGE HOME OWNER IN A RESIDENTIAL SETTING,,ZOOMTOM@ATT.NET

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