Until recently, wind power has been reserved for either the very huge or the tiny and residential. Now Captain Peter Richards, founder of AvionexUSA has developed a mid-size package which may just allow the enterprising businessperson with little bit of land, to spin a substantial profit.
A teacher in Hunterdon County owns 40 acres, part of which includes a bit of a rise to a small ridge. He is one of the several daily inquirers on Richard’s phone seeking to transform his acreage into an entrepreneurial resource. AvionexUSA supplies more than the rooftop solar or wind turbine which takes care of one’s own personal electricity use. It is offering a business.
Using Avionex’s wind generators, and installation team, the enterprising landowner can set up a small number of towers that can bring up to as much as $300,000 each annually. Ideally. Certainly the time seems right. Oil is peaking, with Mexico’s giant fields down 45 percent and the Arabian petroleum requiring three barrels of salt water pumped down to release up one of black gold. Federal and state government are increasingly backing alternative energy investments with all kinds of solid fiscal enticements. And though fraught with no little controversy, the wind turbine is being sought as a viable option. PSE&G has just awarded Garden State Offshore Energy the bid for its massive offshore wind project. “Now,” Richards says, “it’s the entrepreneur’s turn.”
* The Products. Avionex’s products stand in a current power vacuum which, Richards believes, fits the Garden State terrain, and will suit investors’ pocketbooks. The Avionex 30/250 puts out about 250 Kilowatts and the Avioinex100/400 brings in a maximum of about 450. To put that power in perspective, the average New Jersey free standing home uses nine Kilowatts of electricity annually. 10 model 100/400 towers on a hillside could supply an entire mid-size housing development.
The smaller 30/250 model stands 164 feet high at the hub, hoisting high the three 44-foot rotor blades which provide a total 97-foot circular sweep. Thus, as the wind slips past this 7,459-square-foot blade surface, power is generated, through the gear box, and down into the invertors below. How much power depends on the speed of the wind the Lord grants at any given moment. A mere 4 mph generates 12 Kilowatts; 13 mph translates into 225 Kilowatts; and a 25 mph breeze will spin out 245 Kilowatts of clean energy.
The 100/400 model demonstrates how much more power may be achieved with only a slight increase in size. Standing at the same 164 feet high, the hub connects three 55-foot blades, offering a 112-foot sweep. Only 15 feet more raises the power potential from 250 to 450 Kilowatts. Under a 6 mph zephyr, the 100/400 feeds down 50 Kilowatts, yet from 13 mph on, this model hits full delivery of 400 Kilowatts. Both sizes have an induction motor to get things going, full yaw capacity (allowing the blades to ever face the wind,) and blades can also be tilted to catch optimum breeze.
Size matters, particularly on the narrow, old twisty mountain lanes of the Garden State. To make sure that the turbine pieces can be transported to the site, Avionex’s Clipper Class units are designed to be compact. “The 30-foot maximum width of any piece,” Richards notes, “can squeeze the whole assembly into any Jersey destination.”
* The Investment. AvionexUSA’s Clipper Class turbines indeed have a hefty price tag - $396,000 for the 250 Kw model and $696,000 for the 450 Kw. But before the sticker shock sends you scampering, be aware that no sensible investor ever pays full turbine and installation costs. “Most people are totally clueless as to how many avenues exist for rebates and financing from the government and other sources,” says Richards.
To start off, 30 percent of the installation costs may be easily compensated by the Department of Energy and other grants. The New Jersey Clean Energy Program provides a host of financing solutions. Loan guarantees for wind systems are particularly favored by Small Business Development Centers and the federal Department of Energy. New Jersey State law mandates that all discount and rebate paperwork be done by the seller, and AvioinexUSA goes further, by providing its own grant-and-financing-finding hotline - 201-825-3090.
The final part of the wind farm investment is the toughest: wind turbines require municipal permission. Arguments against wind turbines range from their despoiling the view to the demise of passing bird life. Solid counter arguments may be made in turbines’ defense, and many of these may be found by attending a meeting of the local American Wind Energy Association. (visit www.awea.org.) The site has one of the best online aids to obtaining wind turbine permits. But make no mistake, the battle to obtain all necessary permits will be lengthy and costly; and should be listed in the business plan as a major expense.
The New Jersey state government breathes one breath of hope into the permit situation. Recently, Governor Corzine signed the beneficial use law, which allows hospitals, schools and “any industry larger than four acres clearly benefiting the public good,” to bypass municipal codes and gain a state variances. “It hasn’t been proven with wind farms yet, but it certainly seems as if we qualify,” says Richards.
* The Payback. “It’s an entrepreneur’s dream,” says Richards. “How many other businesses can you launch where the customers are absolutely guaranteed? By law, the utilities must purchase the energy you produce,” As long as the owner’s wind farm remains connected to the grid, utilities will buy the energy you produce.
There are several methods of sale but the regulations and processes are a bit trickier than the straight selling of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates at auction. Wind remains a marvelously clean and potentially powerful source of very inconstant energy. Thus, while there are no guarantees as to how much profit the good Lord’s wind will churn out for turbine owners, the buyers are waiting. One source is the PJM Market, which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity through out 13 states, many along the east coast. PJM (called a Regional Transmission Organization in the power trade) obtains its electricity from, among other sources, wind generation. Like any solid commodities market, PJM keeps the fluctuating prices transparent, so sharp energy producers can take advantage of peak needs and sell their megawatts at the most profitable times.
A simpler, if perhaps less profitable method, is to find a customer through the New Jersey Clean Energy Program’s “Find a Vendor” program. The NJCEP seeks to link buyers seeking clean, wind energy with producers. Visit www.njcleanenergy.com.
As a nation turns toward alternative fuels, wind stands certainly in the forefront. When petroleum was first being refined into kerosene for lighting, and then soon thereafter into engine-powering gasoline, it made thousands of investors rich. Now, as oil dwindles, it may be the time to jump onto the next fuel, make money from your easy chair, and practice some earth salvaging at the same time. Biz4
Captain Peter Richards has navigated through an eclectic career with his business antennae always sensitive to a new opportunity. A native of New York, Richards served in the National Guard from 1954 through 1956 and returned to attend Seton Hall University on the G.I. Bill. Since graduation, Richards, has, to name a few ventures, sold real estate properties, developed turnkey system hardware and software, help pioneer mini computers for Data Processor International, and served as president of Mega/Net Corporation, designing and installing real-time telecommunications. It was while sailing his sloop through the Virgin Islands in 1984 that Richards first became aware of the wind’s true energy potential. He first tested his wind farm theories in Culebra, Puerto Rico before bringing the full enterprise to the U.S. Richards is a funding member of the New Jersey Wind Group Committee.