Erika Boeing, CEO, and co-founder of Accelerate Wind, a tech company developing innovative rooftop wind energy solutions gabs with Marla and Tony about harnessing the wind. While rooftop solar power continues to double each year, small wind and rooftop wind is, for the most part, a completely untapped resource. Erika shares the mission of Accelerate Wind is to develop wind turbines that are economically viable through the development of several inventions currently in progress.
Current wind turbines tend to be noisy, unsightly and expensive. Rooftop wind also struggles to repay the initial start-up investment, as rooftop wind speeds are too low to extract substantial power. Accelerate Wind solves these issues by incorporating the turbines into the architectural design of the building and placing them at the edges of the roof where wind is naturally forced to speed up as it travels around the perimeters. The result is a wind energy solution that operates noiselessly, is less expensive, and is more aesthetically pleasing than many of today’s solutions.
In response to Marla’s inquiry as to how Erika became interested in wind energy, Erika shared she has always been an inventor and engineer focused on energy and sustainability. She worked on energy, water and waste technologies for several years developing new inventions, working on waste to energy, water transport and a myriad of energy efficiency technologies. Notably, Erika received a Fulbright Scholarship where she earned her Masters in Society Science and Technology, which is how technology affects society and how society determines which technologies are accepted.
Desiring to understand the bigger picture surrounding the technology she was developing she spent a semester studying the “energy re-bound effect.” The re-bound effect is when energy efficient products become less expensive, and are more readily consumed, which in turn causes even more energy to be used. Erika states that studying the “energy re-bound effect” taught her that “we really need to focus on the source of our energy and to make sure we’re looking at the big picture,” as often when energy efficient technologies are developed it inadvertently causes people to use more energy.
Marla adds that to avoid the re-bound effect we must not only keep in mind the Three R’s of conservation that include reducing, reusing and recycling but we must also think back to ground zero, back to where our energy comes from not just how efficiently we’re using the product.
Tony adds that the good news is that more and more products and home systems are being automated so things turn off and on when they need to, giving us a double whammy of using sustainable energy efficient products on top of using less energy. The Every Day Green Home website is a great place to find sustainable products which saves countless hours of research, that makes better use of our time which of course is one of our most valuable resources!
Getting back to the inception of Accelerate Wind, after two and a half years in the Netherlands, Erika received an Arch Grant, that provided the funding needed so for her “it seemed like the right time to venture out with my ideas… and the timing just seemed right.”
The Big Hairy Audacious Goal and How it Works
In response to Marla’s question, as to what her one big hairy audacious goal is for Accelerate Wind, Erika responded: “to have as many wind turbines on as many commercial rooftops as possible.” She adds the company is currently in the prototyping and development phase and the most unique project they’re working on is developing new drivetrain technologies to reduce the cost of the power electronics.
Tony asks Erika to explain the difference between small turbines and the traditional 50 feet tall turbines people think of when they envision wind energy or wind farms. Erika explains that Accelerate Wind’s designs are different than what is normally seen on building rooftops. The company understands that wind speeds at the edge of the roof are typically one and a half to two times faster than other parts of the roof. Therefore, you have high pressure on the vertical face and low pressure on the horizontal face like an airplane wing that causes the wind to speed up as it goes over the edge. Accelerate Wind developed a channel designed to capture faster wind speeds and guide it toward the central wind turbine, taking out some of the turbulence at the same time which produces more power out of the same wind area with less noise. The channel is also designed to be integrated into the architecture of the building providing more of an angled channel than a rotating mechanism. The unit can be added into the original design of the building or retrofitted.
Industrial businesses are still the big energy hogs in our country and with larger buildings using more energy, Tony notes that companies are looking for ways to bring down their energy costs to which wind could provide the solution. Also of those choosing to use solar energy, the average retail building is only able to produce 25% -40% of its power with solar energy.
Erika shares that the great thing about small wind is the materials used to produce it are far less complex than utility-scale wind and solar energy. Also, the overall environmental impact is a lot less from materials embedded in the technology.
The Drawdown Project
In between her time in the Netherlands and starting Accelerate Wind, Erika was involved in researching waste to energy and landfill methane capture through Project Drawdown. According to Erika, Project Drawdown is an amazing organization that through a diverse and scholarly team of sixty-five researchers focuses on mapping, modeling, measuring and communicating the 100 most substantive solutions to reversing global warming. The main goal is to reverse global warming by pulling out carbon from the atmosphere on a year to year basis by 2050. The 100 solutions include everything from adopting plant-based diets to reducing food waste to high-end technology to increasing education for girls and women, which research shows lower the population’s birth rate. Project Drawdown provides something that everyone can take part in from the government to communities to individuals.
Marla concludes that the biggest thing she’s hearing is to “just do something! Be a part of the solution, not just the problem.” Marla shares that it brings her great hope in the future knowing so many people like Erika and companies like Accelerate Wind are working together with organizations like Project Drawdown to provide viable solutions to our world’s sustainability issues.
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