In the grand scheme of alternative energy options, wind power is a bit of an underachiever.
It's inexpensive, clean and you'd think with the ever-present abundance of gusts, we should be harnessing energy from wind much the way crops and reservoirs are replenished by a huge rainstorm. But the deflating truth is that energy from wind accounts for a mere two percent of electricity consumption worldwide.
One of the major detriments to wind power's growth has been figuring out a way to integrate wind power technologies into a populated environment without making people feel like they reside on a wind farm. Jim Post, an entrepreneur, has taken a stab at the problem with his SmartWind Ridgeblaster, an aesthetically-pleasing wind power design that can be cheaply and unobtrusively installed on buildings and houses.
The concept, one of the entries in GE's ecomagination Challenge competition, gathers wind energy using a wide horizontally-shaped wind turbine that sits atop the peak ridge of a roof. Strategically placed to harness wind from all directions while also blending into the structure (or at least doing the best it can to), the simple device produces up to 1.8kW of electricity. Post is close to producing a testable prototype and estimates that the technology would cost about 4,000 dollars to purchase and install.
Five winners will be picked and awarded $100,000 and potentially a bigger investment or contract from GE to further develop the technology.
Here's a video that demonstrates how the SmartWind RidgeBlaster works: