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GE invests in Southwest Windpower for small wind

Southwest Windpower, which makes small wind turbines, attracts $10 million in venture investments from existing investors and General Electric to expand.

Southwest Windpower, which makes residential wind turbines, said on Monday it has raised $10 million from existing investors and General Electric to expand its operations.

With the money, the Flagstaff, Ariz.-based company said it intends to grow its European operations and invest in product development.

Southwest Windpower makes the Skystream tower-mounted wind turbine, designed for individual homes or buildings. It was originally developed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratories.

These relatively small turbines have a rated capacity of up to 3 kilowatts of electricity. With a good wind source, a homeowner could offset more than half of their electricity use and make electricity cheaper than retail grid rates, according to the company.

Its product plans call for making the Skystream, which has an integrated inverter, more efficient at converting wind to usable electricity. The company is also looking at designing new products, such as wind turbines mounted on street lights.

Other investors that participated in the funding are Altira, Rockport Capital Partners, NGP Energy Technology Partners, and Chevron Technology Ventures, Chevron's venture capital arm.

GE expects to see rapid growth in small wind turbines. Federal renewable energy incentives were changed earlier this year to give investors a 30 percent tax credit for small wind turbines, the same level as solar power.

"In many applications, Southwest Windpower offers the most economic distributed renewable generation technology, and GE is helping the company accelerate adoption of that technology," said Kevin Skillern, managing director and leader of venture capital at GE Energy Financial Services, in a statement.