Motorwind Micro-Wind Turbines
A low-tech low-cost micro-wind turbine. Overcomes the major obstacles for using wind power – cost, and the need for strong and fast winds.
Lucien Gambarota, Hong Kong
Hong Kong based Italian inventor Lucien Gambarota was not living in a mansion, castle or fortress and was therefore astonished to receive a hefty summer electricity bill of one thousand US dollars for his flat. He thought it was crazy that he was paying so much when Hong Kong is an island surrounded by so much natural energy – waves and wind. He’d had enough of the escalating costs of utilities and so powered up his brain to come up with a viable alternative.
Power of the Imagination
He started to imagine ways of generating his own power which eventually led to the creation of his micro-wind turbines. They are a fraction of the size of conventional wind towers and need only wind speeds of two meters per second to generate power. They keep turning in even the lightest of breezes.
Traditional wind turbines are designed to work between a certain range, requiring wind speeds that are usually 10-25 meters per second. However, when you look at actually what’s happening on the ground the average daily wind speeds tend to be about five meters per second.
Gambarota’s skill was to be able to design a system that could create electricity from these low velocities.
The inventor moved to Hong Kong in 1987 and set up a watch business before becoming a product developer for Chinese toy factories. He had his own laboratory to work in, so with a strong idea of what he wanted to create he started to develop the technology in conjunction with Hong Kong University, using their wind tunnel to test the prototypes.
The micro-wind turbines are made of injection moulded plastic polymer gearwheels. Each one is 26 cm in diameter and linked together in framed arrays which can sit on rooftops, balconies or anywhere you care to place them. By linking the gearwheels together the system can generate more electricity. Gambarota's guiding philosophy during the development process was to come up with a system that would be accessible to the average consumer in terms of both price and technology. Currently they are sold in packs of eight or 20 gearwheels. They are just like tiny windmills and the size of the arrays can be adapted for a consumer’s specific space and energy needs. The minimum investment is usually $200.
The energy output of course depends on wind speed. One unit, which is 1 square meter in size and consists of 20 turbines will generate 15-17 Watts of power in winds of 5 five meters per second. In 6 meter per second winds the output is 27-39 Watts and in 8 meter per second wind speeds 64-65 Watts is achieved. Every time the wind speed doubles the power is multiplied eight times.
Gambarota launched the product onto the world on March 15th 2007 at a joint press conference with Hong Kong University. He described the technology in detail and gave a demonstration, and the response was so great it nearly took the wind out of his sails. The next day his website had 10,000 hits and he swiftly created his multinational company from scratch to cope with the orders. Investors and a business partner came on board and Motorwave Group was born. Within two months he set up a workshop, started manufacturing and was shipping out orders. Since those heady days in 2007 the response has continued to be phenomenal and the arrays are being sold in 40 countries.
Bringing Power to the People
Gambarota's thrust now is to try and make manufacturing and shipping cheaper so that he can slash the cost of his innovation. He wants to be able to make it affordable to the millions of low-income people around the world who do not have access to electricity and power.