Saturday, November 05, 2005

Cheyenne firm's wind turbines get makeover

Cheyenne firm's wind turbines get makeover

Star-Tribune capital bureau Saturday, November 05, 2005

CHEYENNE -- Outside the offices of Terra Moya Aqua Inc., the wind was gusting near 60 mph.

The gales provided a perfect backdrop for Friday's announcement of a design breakthrough in the company's vertical wind turbine, one executives say is already drawing international interest and could launch a new era of wind energy technology.

The new turbines are more efficient and less costly than propeller-driven machines and earlier versions of TMA's own mills, officials say.

Former Gov. Jim Geringer was impressed enough to join the company's board of directors and was on hand for Friday's news conference.

"To some people, wind is a four-letter word," he said. "With what we're talking about here, it's anything but a four-letter word."

Geringer said that with his engineering background, he immediately recognized the potential.

"There will be a lot of appeal," he said, adding that interest worldwide is growing for "clean energy."

TMA executives said the key change was the addition of vertical airfoils -- similar to airplane wings -- that surround the turbine's curved, vertical blades. The interaction between the airfoils and blades produces low pressure which actually accelerates wind flow.

"We have the ability to increase wind speeds on our own into our turbine," TMA President Duane Rasmussen said.

Vertical wind turbines have been around for thousands of years, the officials said, but until now have contained flaws that reduced their efficiency.

"We were able to increase the efficiency over the original design by six to eight times" while decreasing the cost, mechanical design engineer Scott Taylor said. Extensive testing in a wind tunnel helped perfect the design, he said.

Prop-driven turbines are 25 to 40 percent efficient, while TMA's new turbine is 43 to 45 percent efficient, officials said. The theoretical maximum efficiency of wind turbines is 59 percent.

The company has filed for a third patent since 2000 and is awaiting certification by federal energy officials.

"We have people nationally and internationally who want to buy this turbine now," said Ron Taylor, founder and chief operating officer.

At a maximum of 96 feet tall, the turbines can be placed in industrial areas where taller propeller turbines are not allowed. The speed of the blades is very low, making them less noisy and less dangerous to birds, officials said. In fact, they said no dead or injured birds have ever been found at the sites of their test models west of Cheyenne.

The company plans to sell turbines generating from 500 watts to 1 megawatt. The smaller ones are portable and can be used by farmers, the military and remote cabin owners.

TMA, which has five full-time employees, is privately held and has about 230 shareholders.

"Going public is a possibility, and it could happen within the next 18 months," Rasmussen said.

For Geringer, who now works for a mapping software company, it's the first time he has joined the board of a for-profit company, but he said he didn't climb aboard to make money.

"I'm in the business to promote Wyoming," he said, complimenting the company for turning down offers to relocate.

Capital bureau reporter Robert W. Black can be reached at (307) 632-1244 or