By Katie Curley
AMESBURY — It's called the next step in wind power and alternate energy sources, and it could come to Greater Newburyport.
Tonight, there is a chance to meet the new device — the "WindWing."
During a public forum at 7:30 p.m. at Amesbury Town Hall, Gene Kelley, founder and CEO of Santa Barbara, Cailf.-based W2 Energy Development Corp. and InnovaTech LLC., will explain his product — an alternative to the traditional wind turbine.
"I looked at propeller-driven wind turbines and said, 'Isn't there a better way to do this?'" Kelley said.
The WindWing improves on the wind turbine by using airplane technology and running more efficiently, cheaply and quietly than traditional turbines, he said.
A large parallelogram that resembles a set of oversized venetian blinds on a metal rod, WindWing has six wing panels that can tilt up and down in order to create energy. Sensors located behind the panels are able to detect wind direction and strength and adjust the panels accordingly.
The energy is pulled into the stem on the machine and pulled into a box at its base, where it can be converted by an electrical pump into electricity, compressed air or put through a water pump.
Global wind power capacity has been increasing throughout the world. Locally, three wind turbines have been installed at Cider Hill Farm, and a turbine is planned at Mark Richey Woodworking in Newburyport.
"We want to raise the level of technology and create something better," Kelley said. "This will bring us closer to reaching the political goals set to make more energy available."
Kelley is already an experienced inventor. He created the rumble strips used on the sides of highways, the safety lights attached to floatation devices under airplane seats, and astronaut John Glenn's helmet.
"Have you ever stuck your hand out a car window?" Kelley asked. "Then you know how the WindWing works. Your hand tilts up as it is pushed up by the wind and down as the wind pushes it down; all you have to do is direct it."
While traditional turbines rely on spinning propellers, Kelley says they are inefficient, capturing only a fraction of the energy from the already minimal amount of wind they touch.
"The more area the turbine touches, the more energy it collects," Kelley explained.
Because of WindWing's ability to run efficiently in the lightest and harshest of winds, it costs only a tenth of the cost of a traditional wind turbine. Up to 12 panels can be stacked on the WindWing.
Based on the needs and surface area of each site, WindWing can replace 12 propeller turbines.
"The propellers break and wear out. People complain of the grinding of the gears," Kelley said. "WindWing is nearly silent and adjusts based on conditions."
Kelley speaks passionately about the moment he realized his invention worked. A small prototype, with only two panels, was pulled out of a warehouse at a Santa Barbara airport. While Kelley went to get a fan to generate wind, WindWing began its choreographed dance up and down in the then 6 mph wind.
"That was a big day," Kelley said with a grin. "It really works."
After a presentation that is free to the public, Kelley and his site development manager, Larry Parsons of Gloucester, will answer questions.
IF YOU GO:
What: Public forum on WindWing
When: Tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Amesbury Town Hall