Between their impossibly-massive scale and generous power output — large, industrial-scale wind turbines get all the attention in the wind power industry. But many of the same efficiency, and technolgy advances that go into the large machines, are also helping make small wind turbines for the average home or business an increasingly attractive option. Thanks to a successful research partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and a boost of venture financing, SouthWest Windpower will soon unviel a new, small-scale wind turbine to the renewable energy market.Flagstaff, Arizona – May 5, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] In 2000, Southwest Windpower entered into a co-development project with NREL to develop a next generation small wind turbine. “Our next generation turbine is being designed for the individual consumer to produce electricity for less than what they pay from the utility,” said Andrew Kruse, SouthWest Windpower’s Vice-President. “The new NREL machine is set to be a 2 kW machine designed to be connected directly to the grid. We expect it to be very cost effective as we are investing heavily in tooling and integrated design to keep the cost down.” A key component of bringing this new turbine to market is the company’s recent arrangement for a round of venture financing from Altira Group, a Colorado based early-stage venture capital firm with a particular focus on new technology. Kruse said that in addition to bringing the new model to market, the funding will help the company to expand operations in order to keep up with demand, expand sales into new markets, boost the company’s marketing and advertising, and make existing manufacturing capabilities more robust. “We are hopeful this will help us continue to take strides into the distributed generation market,” Kruse said. Southwest Windpower has been developing and manufacturing small wind turbines for over a decade. The company’s 47 employees have produced and sold over 72,000 turbines ranging from 400 to 3000 watts. These small turbines provide electricity for remote homes, rural areas in developing countries, telecommunication systems, recreational vehicles such as sailboats, and other remote applications. In terms of funding their operation, the company has been successful so far without venture capital so this new funding round signifies a new era for the company. “We are impressed with the remarkable inroads made by Southwest Windpower in the small wind segment of the renewable energy industry without any capital from traditional venture sources,” Altira partner Peter Edwards said. “Now, with the capital and resources we are providing, management will have what it needs to take the company to the next level and beyond.” Altira looks for promising technology companies in the areas of oil and gas, energy information technology, electric power generation, transmission and distribution, and renewable energy. The firm targets opportunities in first institutional equity rounds with initial investments of $500,000 to $2 million. SouthWest has found a broad market for their small-scale wind turbines. “About 50% of our current sales are sold outside of the country,” Kruse said. “Growth opportunities can be found in just about every market we are in. These include remote homes, telecommunication systems, cathodic protection, off-shore platform lighting and our grundfos – water pumping systems.” The company said that more than two billion people in developing countries live without electricity, and the cost of electric power in some parts of the United States has more than tripled over the last decade. This and other factors driving renewable energy have ushered in a new opportunity for small wind.