In an effort to establish themselves as a green company, Best Buy is installing their first set of wind turbines to generate electricity for one of their retail stores. The store they chose for this incredible first step is their Eden Prairie, MN location, which is the city Best Buy was originally headquartered in until they moved to Richfield, MN in 2002.
For aesthetic purposes, vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT) are becoming increasingly popular for smaller applications versus the horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWT) you see used in large wind farms. A VAWT is defined by the main rotor shaft being arranged vertically which allows for the generator and gearbox to be mounted near the bottom of the structure. With the generator and gearbox near the bottom, the tower itself does not need to be designed to support that weight as well and can reduce the cost required to install one. The big advantage of a VAWT is that it can utilize wind from various directions; it does not need to be pointed into the wind like a HAWT. The primary disadvantage for a VAWT is the additional drag created as the blades rotate into the wind; reducing efficiency to about half of what a HAWT would produce. Another reason for using a VAWT is they can start producing electricity at lower wind speeds of around 6 MPH and do not need to be mounted as high in the air as a HAWT.
Best Buy is deploying two VAWTs at the Eden Prairie, MN location manufactured by WePOWER; an innovate wind turbine company located in Aliso Viejo, CA. Erected in the front of the store is a WePOWER Falcon 1.2kW generator mounted on a 35ft tower. At the backside of the store facing Interstate 494 is a WePOWER Falcon 3.4kW generator also mounted on a similar tower. The combined output according to WePOWER's product guide could be between 8050 kWh and 16100 kWh annually. The electricity generated is only a small percentage of the store's annual usage; Project Development Manager Dwayne Shmel stated “But it's a start and it communicates to our customers and shareholders that we're committed to renewable energy.”
Best Buy will also feature a display inside the store so customers and employees alike can view statistics on the wind generators such as current wind speed, kilowatts being generated and how much money is being saved.
The list price on the Falcon 1.2kW is $6,890 and the Falcon 3.4kW is $15,390 both require additional fees for shipping and installation. Both are engineered to last at least 20 years, use a permanent magnet direct drive generator and operate at very low noise levels of approximately 32 dB.