Watch CBS News

Small Turbines From Silicon Valley Firm May Shift Wind Energy Market

MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX) -- While wind energy is the fastest-growing energy source in the world, wind farms provide less than five percent of the energy in the U.S.

But one Silicon Valley startup is aiming to change the market's direction. CEO Ignacio Juarez co-founded Semtive six years ago in Argentina, where today you can find its turbines powering street lights and part of the Sheraton Hotel grounds in Buenos Aires.

The renewable wind energy startup opened its U.S. headquarters at NASA Research Park at Moffett Field last year.

"We developed a very simple, affordable and reliable way to generate clean energy with wind," said Juarez.

Unlike wind farms, which rely on speeds of 30 mph or greater, Semtive's turbines are made for low wind speeds. Its blades are designed to allow the turbines to keep spinning at low wind speeds - around 10 miles per hour - which is the Bay Area average.

Semtive says the turbines are ideal for urban and rural areas. They are made of aircraft-grade aluminum, and manufactured in Mountain View and Manteca. Installation on a rooftop or balcony takes less than an hour. You can already spot test turbines at homes in Pacifica and at University of California, Davis.

Biologists and animal activists have rallied against wind farms for years, because the blades are notorious bird killers. Surveys estimate that there are 5,000 or more bird deaths each year at the Altamont Pass.

Semtive says its new turbines are safe for wildlife. In fact, you can stop the blades with your hand.

The company believes its product is the first and most affordable small wind turbine on the market for homes and businesses.

The smallest model starts at $4,600. To offset the cost, customers can qualify for green tax rebates and incentives from the state and federal government.

"If you are living in a very small apartment in San Francisco you can put one on the balcony to generate clean energy there, if you have your electric car you can install one in your house to car your electric car," added Juarez.

Wind energy can be generated at the cost of two cents per kilowatt hour. By comparison - solar energy averages about eight cents per kilowatt hour.

Juarez says if you PG&E bill falls under $150 a month - one medium-sized turbine can generate 100 percent of your energy usage.  All you need is the Semtive converter, which is included in the purchase. You plug it into any outlet and it sends energy back into the grid. And you can keep track of your savings with the accompanying app.

"Everybody can generate affordable clean energy today with our solution," Juarez said.

The company is taking the first U.S. pre-sales on its website starting Tuesday, May 16.

"Semtive is an innovative company, they've got interesting technology," said San Francisco State University Faculty Director of Graduate Business Programs Sanjit Sengupta.

Sengupta's research focuses on new product development and technological innovation.

"If it really pans out it would be economically beneficial to consumers, even of solar, because you can't do away with solar," said Sengupta. "But, for example, if it's a cloudy day and so on, and there's not enough solar, then this would be a nice complement."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.