Back to a windy future
Raum Energy Inc.
October 01, 2010— Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Hundreds of windmills were removed from Saskatchewan’s rural landscape in the 1940s, and now Darryl Jessie sees a future in bringing them back - with an inventive twist.
Jessie’s Saskatoon-based firm, Raum Energy Inc., produces a new generation of windmills that are more compact than the traditional skyscraper-sized structures. Raum’s design is only about 10 to 20 metres high, yielding enough electricity to meet most of the demand of a farm or a large suburban home.
A close up of Raum’s higher-capacity small wind turbine design
Before the province’s power grid was built up after World War II, some 6,000 farms had to fend for themselves when it came to electricity. Wind turbines were a common approach. These were dismantled when the Saskatchewan Power Commission — now SaskPower — hooked up the isolated households to its grid. Today SaskPower is welcoming back windmills, this time to supply the grid.
The smaller, less intrusive design of Raum’s product, combined with environmental benefits and cost-savings, make the windmills an attractive option.
“It’s one of the few things you buy that can actually make you money,” explains Jessie.
The smallest of those machines cost less than $10,000, he adds, and the Saskatchewan Research Council will rebate a third of that amount. Depending on how the unit is used, and the type of wind that is available, the savings could pay for the equipment in as little as seven years. For the remainder of the windmill’s projected lifespan — estimated to be some 20 years — it will supply free or even profitable power.
An array of Raums’ new generation of windmills, supplying energy in an isolated location
Raum has been in business since 2006, facing off against competitors in the United States that are selling thousands of these smaller wind turbines every year. Jessie’s goal has been to build the market in Canada by setting a new standard for the cost effectiveness and quality of this technology.
The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) has been there to help. NRC-IRAP works with small and medium-sized enterprises, helping them grow their businesses, increase their competitiveness, and enhance their impact in the marketplace.
With a contribution from NRC-IRAP, Raum was able to hire three engineers over three years to help design higher-capacity turbines with a potential to generate 3.5 kW, enough power to meet the needs of a large household. NRC-IRAP also encouraged Raum to develop more internal expertise in small wind turbine design in areas such as efficient battery charging, inverters, blades and towers. This led to significant cost savings and more control over product specifications.
“NRC-IRAP has enabled us to go faster,” says Jessie. “We just couldn’t do it without solid engineering, and this helped us become one of the few companies in the world with core competency in all aspects of small wind turbine design.”
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