A San Diego company has found a way to harness the power of the sun and the wind on the small scale to provide energy to schools, parks and, in some cases, entire communities.
Miramar-based Primo Wind’s EnergiPlant is a miniature solar wind turbine that can be installed virtually anywhere.
"This is a system that can provide usable electricity without digging any trenches or connecting to grid power for small power items,” said Primo Wind Director of Operations Hayden Van Zanten.
The EnergiPlant looks like a large flower. The "leaves" collect solar power and a the wind turbine "bloom" captures energy day and night.
Inside a bench at the base of the EnergiPlant is a bank of batteries where locals can plug in and charge electronic devices.
An EnergiPlant is installed outside the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, as an example of functional art. Another is powering an "Earth Bench" created by students at Mater Dei Catholic High School in Chula Vista.
The technology is also being used to provide power to parts of the world where there is no access to electricity, or where power has been knocked out by natural disasters.
After Hurricane Irma, CEO Ned McMahon took one of the company’s larger EnergiTrees to Barbuda. It was the only power they had on the island. Units have also been deployed with U.S. Marines and Navy in the Arctic.
Each EnergyTree can provide lighting to 25 houses. They can also provide power to a water pump sourcing water from a nearby stream. The turbine can also be used as a security system of surveillance cameras are installed beneath the leaves.
"We’re able to go in and provide security camera footage where this isn’t a lot of coverage. Say, parts of a University [Avenue], darker areas in a city park, areas like that," Van Zanten said.
Primo Wind is now working to get these systems to the areas that need them most.
They’ve created a philanthropic arm, called Primo Seeds, to raise money for equipment donation. Their first project will help Cornwall College in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
"It is a project that would send two of our systems to a school that needs security camera coverage, needs a portable power source that really doesn’t have a lot of power in. So we’re really excited about that," Van Zanten said.
It has taken Primo Wind six years and 11 different iterations of the EnergiPlant to get to this point. Van Zanten said it’s worth it.
"It’s been a long road and we’re continuing to improve but we feel like a lot of our hard work’s paid off."