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HolidayBuyer's Guide

CES: Skystream turbine makes most of air stream

Southwest Windpower unveils small wind turbine with claim of 7,400 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year under 12 mph average conditions.

Southwest Windpower's Skystream 3.7. Southwest Windpower

Veteran wind turbine manufacturer Southwest Windpower unveiled a highly efficient small wind turbine at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today.

Southwest Windpower claims the Skystream 600, its follow-up to the Skystream 3.7, can produce 7,400 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year when used in an area with an average annual wind speed of 12 mph.

If true, that's a pretty impressive small wind turbine. Many small wind turbines sold in recent years have touted around 2,000 kilowatt-hours annually under average conditions.

Consider that Helix Wind claims about 3,362 kilowatt-hours annually with an average 15.6 mph wind speed for its vertical S594 turbine, and 3,168 kilowatt-hours for its D361 vertical axis wind turbine. The Windspire turbine is said to produce 2,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually when placed in an area with 11.2 mph to 12.5 mph average wind speeds. Windtronics claims 2,000 kilowatt-hours for its fan-like small wind turbine in a Class 4 wind area. The Swift turbine claims 1,900 kilowatt-hours annually in an area of 13.4 mph average wind speed.

Although past SouthWest Power claims when it comes to turbine generation have proved true to rating to researchers, it's still wise to remain skeptical.

Two recent studies, one in Massachusetts and one in the U.K., have shown that turbine manufacturers' power generation claims tend to be drastically overrated compared to real-life results, especially in urban areas. Both studies attributed the difference to unanticipated localized wind obstructions like buildings as well as technical glitches and poor placement. While governments and other groups have made area wind maps widely available, they obviously don't take into account local neighborhood conditions.