TribLIVE

| Neighborhoods

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Local company putting wind-energy technology on edge in Penn Township

- PHOTO / Chris Foreman Penn-Trafford Star WindStax Wind Power Systems founder Ron Gdovic of Harrison City explains the construction of his company's vertical axis wind turbines during an open house at the WindStax warehouse in Pittsburgh's Strip District on May 31.
PHOTO / Chris Foreman Penn-Trafford Star WindStax Wind Power Systems founder Ron Gdovic of Harrison City explains the construction of his company's vertical axis wind turbines during an open house at the WindStax warehouse in Pittsburgh's Strip District on May 31.
- PHOTO / Chris Foreman Penn-Trafford Star Gdovic describes how this 20-foot wind turbine, parked outside the WindStax warehouse, generates electricty for the company's offices.
PHOTO / Chris Foreman Penn-Trafford Star Gdovic describes how this 20-foot wind turbine, parked outside the WindStax warehouse, generates electricty for the company's offices.

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Chris Foreman
Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 6:58 p.m.
 

Some of the new vertical-axis wind turbines manufactured in Pittsburgh will undergo test spins with the help of breezes gusting through Penn Township.

The turbines, built by WindStax Wind Power Systems, founded last year by Ron Gdovic of Harrison City, will be placed atop a ridge off Chestnut Lane, near Route 130 and Kistler's Golf Course, in the coming weeks before heading to their customers for final installation.

Gdovic said he's tapping into the “green-energy” market by selling turbines that are affordable for homeowners — about $7,500 for a 20-foot unit — and have a low-carbon footprint. The company also builds 40- and 53-foot-tall units.

His turbines begin generating electricity in winds as low as 5 mph, but can store enough energy to power a home for two or three days even if there is an extended period without any wind.

The frames of the tower are constructed from PVC piping, while the blades are made from a type of hard wood called okoume that is common in boats and kayaks. The units also have a solar panel.

Gdovic, who has a background in urban and regional planning, said there is pent-up demand for turbines such as those made by WindStax but few choices in the marketplace.

“We're looking at a 20-year lifespan as the industry standard, and we feel we can easily match that,” he said.

WindStax has undergone a fairly quick transformation. The company's 20-foot prototype, built in a garage in Apollo, now sits on a trailer outside the WindStax building that opened in March in Pittsburgh's Strip District and powers the offices.

A few years ago, Gdovic tinkered in his backyard with another model, which was 3 or 4 feet tall, said his neighbor, Ray Follador, who is the president and co-owner of ARK Resources, a drilling company.

ARK's 49-acre property in Penn Township will provide the test site for the turbines. The first turbine that is scheduled to be tested at the site, a 40-foot unit, later will go to Independence, Kan., to help power a shallow oil-drilling operation in a remote area.

“I believe in what he's doing,” Follador said. “I think it's a great idea, and I think it has a good application to oil- and gas-(drilling).”

Wind energy has become a big business in the last few years.

Last August, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that, as of 2010, six states met at least 10 percent of their total electricity needs with wind power. The country's capacity for wind energy has grown 18-fold since 2000, providing enough electricity for about 13 million homes, according to the report.

Titus North, executive director of the nonprofit organization Citizen Power, based in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, which advocates for green-energy solutions, said he's curious to see what the market will hold for WindStax.

Vertical turbines never will be as efficient in generating electricity as a traditional horizontal-axis turbine, which has three propeller blades providing torque in the same direction, North said.

But the vertical-axis system isn't reliant on the direction of the wind and is more suitable for a residential neighborhood, he said.

“If something can be manufactured cheaply and installed cheaply, it doesn't matter if it's less efficient,” North said. “It's still bang for the buck.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Penn-Trafford

  1. Re-enactors to help mark anniversary of Battle of Bushy Run
  2. Unexpected storm water project to cost Manor $20,000
  3. Penn-Trafford High School library to be open to start new school year
  4. Penn-Trafford volunteers welcome waiving of background check fees
  5. Penn Township housing plan gains commissioners’ approval
  6. Trafford woman asks officials to take action on vacant home
  7. New transformer to be installed at Municipal Park