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Santa Fe Company Licenses Technology to Build Hybrid Generator

By Rosalie Rayburn
Copyright 2006 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
    A study that explored how renewable energy could bring jobs to rural New Mexico has helped lure a European invention that combines solar and wind technology to generate pollution-free electricity.
    Bluenergy Solarwind Inc. plans to assemble and sell vertical-axis turbines capable of producing up to 8 kilowatts of electricity for residential and small-business customers.
    The fledgling Santa Fe company has licensed the technology from Bluenergy AG based near Cologne, Germany.
    Bluenergy SolarWind president Joel Goldblatt said he believes the elegant-looking blue turbine with its double helix shape will provide an aesthetically appealing and efficient way to generate electricity in urban and rural settings and create up to 50 new jobs.
    Goldblatt and former state legislator Bob Perls were co-principals in New Energy New Mexico, which conducted a study this spring for the Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department to find renewable energy projects to boost economic development in rural areas.
    The study identified 19 solar, wind and biomass projects that satisfied their criteria.
    "Bluenergy was one of the top ranked as most viable to create the most jobs," Goldblatt said.
    Goldblatt worked with the New Mexico Economic Development Department to persuade Bluenergy to come to New Mexico.
    He helped the company open an office in the Santa Fe business incubator in September and expects to hire about 10 workers next year to produce the hybrid wind-solar turbines.
    Over the next three years, he hopes to establish a plant outside Santa Fe, possibly in Angel Fire, which will employ about 50 workers.
    The technology was developed by Bluenergy's German founder, Bernd Melchior, who discovered a way to encapsulate solar photovoltaic cells in a layer of clear teflon. The teflon is then imprinted with microscopic indentations that enable the surface to capture sunlight from all directions and reflect the light onto the photovoltaic cells.
    The teflon can be molded into shapes for roof tiles or curved vanes, which can be stacked to form a vertical-axis wind and solar generator.
    Melchior's company has tested the tiles and a prototype turbine in Germany. Based on those tests, Bluenergy claims the turbines can generate power at wind speeds as low as 4 mph, with no upper limit. Traditional horizontal-axis wind turbines typically have to shut down at wind speeds of about 45 mph to prevent damage.
    Bluenergy's plans for New Mexico include production of 2-kilowatt, 5-kilowatt and 8-kilowatt turbines, Goldblatt said.
    The 5-kilowatt turbine, suitable for large homes or small businesses, is 18 feet tall and 6 feet across at its widest point. About two-thirds of the power generated would come from wind, one-third from the solar cells.
    It sits on a cylindrical base that houses an inverter, the device needed to convert the turbine's direct-current power to alternating current suitable for home use.
    A 5-kilowatt solar-wind turbine would cost about $35,000 installed. Goldblatt said that compares with current photovoltaic technology.
    But Ben Luce, chairman of the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, cautioned that customers would need a windy site to get maximum value from a hybrid device.
    "You don't want to put one of these things in front of your building in the city. It will hardly ever turn," Luce said.