Winds of change are blowing through the energy market, where one Greenville company is about to harness the economic gust in a wind-turbine market expected to grow nearly 40% in the next half-dozen years.
“The BarberWind turbine actually is the most optimal solution in energy that I’ve seen, particularly for the Caribbean,” says James Whittaker, founder and CEO of GreenTech Solar in the Cayman Islands.
Whittaker says his company plans to buy as many as six from BarberWind Turbines LLC after Greenville inventor Jerry Barber’s newly certified brainchild debuts in mid-2020.
Jerry Barber, who holds more than 60 patents, says he started working on redesigning turbines about nine years ago because their car-sized gearboxes break. His version doesn’t have a gearbox. That means his device, which is also roughly a third smaller than its three-bladed commercial cousin, is more economical, he says.
His wife, Tammy Barber, who is BarberWind Turbines LLC’s owner and chief operating officer, says the $1.6 million BWT800kW turbine generates electricity costing 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour. Offshore wind can run as high as 8.9 cents per kWh, according to Lazard, a global financial advisory and asset-management company.
Jerry Barber’s invention looks like a Ferris wheel — no accident, since he has designed, developed and manufactured numerous amusement-park rides over the last half-century. BarberWind’s turbine, at 200 feet in diameter and rising 230 feet — about the length of a 747’s wingspan — has 64 spokes with 20 5-foot-long blades.
While wind farms transmit electricity to far-flung cities, a single BarberWinds turbine is plugged into a station onsite, distributing directly to the 300 homes it can power.
“We’re farm-to-table wind,” Tammy Barber says. “We are the only large turbine that can hook up to distribution lines. Where you plant it, you use it.”
Whittaker also cited the ease of transporting and installing the BarberWind device. The turbine can be fully dismantled and shipped in seven or eight 40-foot containers. Commercial blades, which span the height of the Statue of Liberty, come in one piece, making them especially difficult to move in such constricted spaces as a Caribbean island, Whittaker says. Grand Cayman’s average width is 4 miles.
A crane isn’t required to erect the turbine, which also folds to the ground. Upright, it can withstand a Category 4 hurricane, according to the company.
“Barber is the first product that I’ve seen that can be mass adopted across the Caribbean because of its logistical attributes,” Whittaker says.