CES 2011: GE’s Small-Turbine Partner

GE does giant wind turbines, so when it wanted to hook a renewable-power element – namely, distributed wind power – into its growing smart-grid/smart-home business, it turned to Southwest Windpower, which bills itself as the world’s largest manufacturer in the sector. And that’s what brought Southwest Power to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, where its Skystream 600 wind turbine was part of GE’s “home of the future” exhibit.

This is new turbine model from Southwest Windpower, one that produces 74 percent more energy for commercial and residential use than its predecessor, the company said. In a location with average annual wind speeds of 12 mph, this unit would produce 7,400 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in a year. According to the Department of Energy, in 2008 the average U.S. household consumed 11,040 kWh.

Wind turbine, Southwest Windpower Skystream 600

image via Southwest Windpower

Southwest WIndpower said keys to improving the turbine were a larger blade design, enhanced software and an improved integrated inverter.

“In many applications, Southwest Windpower offers the most economical distributed renewable generation technology,” Kevin Skillern, managing director of venture capital at GE Energy Financial Services, said. “Through our investments in the company, GE Energy Financial Services is helping bring this new product to market.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.