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Images: Distributing wind power in the neighborhood

Some wind companies are building mid-size turbines for on-site power generation for schools, businesses, or farms.

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Martin LaMonica
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1 of 6 Optiwind

Optiwind prototype

Optiwind is a two-year start-up that's designing a mid-size wind turbine for businesses or municipal buildings like schools.

This is a drawing of the system it hopes to test later this year. The structure, which would be just under 200-feet tall, is meant to accelerate wind as it hits the silo surface to make the fans spin faster and generate more electricity. It's developing a 150-kilowatt and a 300-kilowatt model.

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2 of 6 Screen capture by Martin LaMonica

FloDesign Wind Turbine

There are a few companies experimenting with ways to accelerate wind to squeeze more power from the available wind in a smaller space. One of them is FloDesign Wind Turbine, a company that is modifying jet engine technology for wind. The company, backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is very discreet about its plans but the company CEO did disclose that FloDesign is working on a prototype.

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3 of 6 Martin LaMonica

Medford

Another company in the community wind turbine business is Northern Power, which supplied this 100-kilowatt machine to the John J. McGlynn Middle School in Medford, Mass.

The turbine will supply about 10 percent of the school's electricity and is expected to pay for itself in under 10 years. It was largely paid for by grants.

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4 of 6 Martin LaMonica

Hull High school

The city of Hull, Mass., is considered a leader in community wind, having installed two turbines with plans for offshore turbines in the future. The turbines are owned and operated by the municipal power company.

This is a turbine at the town high school. It's relatively old, and at a rated capacity of 660 kilowatts, it's also relatively small compared to what its manufacturer, Vestas, focuses on now. The wind giant has focused in recent years on very large turbines for utility-scale wind farms.

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Ecotricity in UK

Ecotricity is a U.K.-based wind power company that builds wind farms as well as distributed wind installations. This one supplies about half of the electricity used at a Sainsbury's supermarket in East Kilbride, Scotland.

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6 of 6 Northern Power

Hyannis Country Gardens

Hyannis Country Gardens in Cape Cod put up a Northern Power Northwind 100--the same as the Medford school--in its parking lot. Having an excellent wind resource, the turbine supplies more electricity than the garden center consumes. The owner expects that it will pay for itself in about seven or eight years. It took a lot of work to get the approvals--about three years of community meetings and impact studies. But now, more neighbors are interested and supportive, according to the garden center's co-owner, Diana Duffley.

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