Clean Power JLM's Zefr could make top 5 micro wind turbine list

Published on April 30th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Reshuffling Our Top 5 Micro Wind Turbines

April 30th, 2013 by  

One of the most popular micro wind turbine companies around, Southwest Windpower, began to scale back operations last year and has apparently closed its doors, which means that our list of Top 5 Micro Wind Turbines is overdue for a re-do.

As a preliminary step, let’s take a look at JLM Energy, Inc., an all-around renewable energy company that has figured out a way to piggyback its Zefr micro wind turbine arrays onto Southwest’s poles, resulting in a clever way to squeeze some extra juice out of existing wind turbine infrastructure.

JLM's Zefr could make top 5 micro wind turbine list

Zefr micro wind turbine courtesy of JLM Energy

No More Southwest Wind Power

Before we get into one of those OMG another Obama-supported green company goes belly up kind of “scandals,” let’s note for the record that Southwest Windpower was established in 1987. Throughout the years it won high-profile accolades for both its technology and its commercial success, with the business really taking off after launching a joint venture with the Department of Energy under the George W. Bush Administration.

One highlight: the 2006 “Best of What’s New” award from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (that’s Bush Administration, for those of you keeping score at home).

The company refused an offer of $700,000 from President Obama’s Recovery Act grant in 2011. It did, however, accept a grant of $460,000 from the State of Arizona in 2010, for energy-efficient upgrades to its Flagstaff facility, and it obtained backing from the Colorado-based early stage venture capital group Altira among other investors in 2009 (Altira, btw, is known more for experience in the oil and gas sector but whatever).

Also for the record, in 2007 former president George H.W. Bush installed the company’s best selling micro wind turbine, the Skystream 3.7, at the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

That explains the cricket chirps from the usual suspects, so let’s move on.

…but before we do, let’s also note that back in 2009, Southwest Windpower was citing the federal production tax credit for wind power as a key element in its success. The reasons for Southwest’s fall have yet to be sorted out but  uncertainty over extension of the credit (round up the usual suspects, again) in 2012 probably didn’t help matters.

JLM’s Zefr Micro Wind Turbine Array Up

JLM Energy offers a variety of building-mounted renewable energy solutions including its AirBlades series of micro wind turbines, which it offers in an array package called Zefr.

From a distance, the arrays resemble a souped-up army of those oversized plastic daisy windmills you see in front yards, which brings up an important point regarding micro wind turbines, especially building-mounted micro wind turbines.

Aside from generating renewable energy, aesthetic appeal is a critical factor for micro wind turbines, as we pointed out in our Top 5 Micro Wind Turbines – Remix! list.

An array of micro wind turbines adds a striking element of interest to a building, and it provides companies with can’t-miss-it proof of their sustainability credentials.

The sporting world, for one, has started to pick up on the trend, a couple of recent examples being the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles.

One example of the extra benefits of micro wind turbines is a kinetic sculpture park in New Zealand that includes wind turbines along with non-generating sculptures, which was developed to boost the nation’s global profile and drive its tourism sector.

In other words, even if the payback for micro wind turbines is not particularly quick in terms of utility savings, other forms of payback could more than make up the difference, at least for commercial properties and economic development zones.

Vertical Micro Wind Turbine Arrays

One thing to keep in mind when considering a turbine array is the outsized effect that turbulence and microclimate (for example, the proximity of nearby buildings) could have on efficiency. On the other hand, JLM’s vertical array concept does revolve around existing turbine poles, so it gets a running start on site selection.

The vertical array concept came about when the company Solar Wind Energy LLC approached JLM with the observation that its customers already had installed Southwest turbine towers and needed to find a way to use them.

Local zoning and permitting regulations could still provide a sticking point, but with the turbine tower installed a good deal of the work is already done.

JLM spotted an opportunity and quickly assembled a design team to develop a custom turbine pole clamp for Zefr arrays, specifically to fit Southwest’s poles including the Skystream, Air and Whisper series.

Since the Zefr pole-mount clamp was just introduced last week and another manufacturer might pick up the Skystream 3.7 where Southwest left off, we’re not going to switch our Top 5 list around just yet. But, we’ll keep an eye on JLM for our next update.

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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Reason And Believing

    So the free money ran out and the company folded. Perfect Obamanomics
    And to site George H. W. Bush as if he isn’t a far left liberal shows how little you know about US politics.

    • Bob_Wallace


      You apparently have no idea how the US became one of the richest and most advanced countries in the world.

      Here’s a hint. Land grant colleges, the GI bill, major federal spending on research. We educated and researched our way to prosperity. We gave our people the skills to develop new ideas and the resources to try them out.

      Now the far right wants to kill the very things that have made us strong.

  • BreeZee

    The company I work for, Wimberley Wind and Solar out of Austin, services Texas and the Nation, they install the Zefr fans from time to time. The Zefr are super fast to hook up and easy to install. They do lack some on performance thought because the rated wind speed is near 34mph vs. 25-27 mph rating and nameplate for most other manufactures HAWT fans…. JLM is coming out with a 4kw VAWT soon that does look real cool too imo. Their technology is streamlined and installer friendly..

  • Guest

    Great article! JLM Energy Inc. takes a different approach to providing clean renewable energy to the commercial, Industrial and residential market sectors.
    They take the full portfolio approach, providing more than just a wind product that stands ahead of the pack. They also provide a Energy Storage System that houses a Inverter, Transfer Switch, Charge Controller, Etc. in one clean, easy to use system. Also, they are coming out with a larger 28ft. Vertical Axis Wind Turbine. They have a monitoring software that brings all of their technology together and can allow easy access monitoring to the entire system, from a computer, phone or ipad, etc. Very Interesting stuff.

    I hear horror stories daily on the Southwest & Honeywell/Windtronics products. They have a lot of very unhappy people out there, and are going through a number of different lawsuits. Its really a shame. Taking money and running is never a good thing.

  • Charlie Behnke

    Get article. Very helpful and spot on. The Zefr is one of the only wind turbines that can connect to the same string as PV. This turbine can utilize the micro-inverter, and uses MC4 connectors. Plug and play. Very interesting technology. JLM offers a portfolio of different products including Energy Storage Systems, Solar Thermal, (WIND TECHNOLOGY), Hybrid, LED, Car Charging Stations, and brings it all together with it’s monitoring software. Southwest, Honeywell, Etc. DO NOT take this approach. I am excited to see their 28 FT. Vertical Axis 4KW Wind Turbine.

  • Kimball Webster

    Air 30, Air 40, and Air Breeze Wind Turbines are now being built, and serviced by Primus Windpower, Lakewood Co.

  • The previous Air products (Air 30, Air 40, Air Breeze) are available from our wholesale firm in Germany. Feel free to make contact with us.

  • Bernie Lomax

    Southwest Windpower did not yield any success from the PTC as it does not apply to small wind. Not sure where you could have cited that from.

  • arne-nl

    In the windy province of Zeeland, The Netherlands, there is a long term test for micro wind turbines. Their performance varies wildly, with the ‘classic’ three-blade HAWT performing the best.

    Here is the web page (might need to use Google Translate- it is in Dutch):

    This is a report on the yields of the turbines in the test:

    The Skystream is a persistent top performer, offering best ROI of the turbines in that test.

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