Friday, 25 January 2013

IP Phishing..

We've entered a couple of competitions recently, the sort of thing that would give you some nice PR if you won, rather than life changing amounts of money. Fingers crossed, and obviously we'll let you know how we get on in due course.

Having a look on the web, it seems that there are an increasing number of competitions and award programmes operating in the green  sector.  A quick Google will give you pages of hits, from small local awards, to huge well respected competitions like the Zayed Future Energy Prize.Some of these awards offer only prestige and good PR, others have financial incentives.  Here at the Power Collective we were very fortunate to win the Green Challenge Competition run by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, and that win has set us firmly on the path to success (I hope), so you would think that I would be a big supporter of competitions, but that's not necessarily the case. There can also be a downside to entering competitions and  I think that it would be useful for companies thinking of entering  to ask themselves a few questions:

Is the competition right for you?  What would winning the competition bring - is it just prestige, money, networking opportunities, PR?  And is this something that you need at this stage of your company's development?  For example - great PR and exposure works best if you are close to market, or already trading. Good PR might also help raise capital. Is that appropriate right now? Because if it isn't the competition is just a distraction. And talking of distractions - have you the bandwidth to speculate in this way? Competitions have winners and losers, and the effort that goes in to the entry process is the same for both - can you spare the time?

 All of these points are worth considering, but on their own - not too important. However, there is one danger that is very real, and that could finish your business before it has even got started - the loss of your intellectual property.

Recently, a tweet pointed me in the direction of a competition run by a large corporation.  A huge prize was offered, and out of interest I took a look.  Frankly, I was shocked. The competition had a number of stages, and in the first stage, the company was offering "up to $15,000" for a number of lucky entrants, from which the winners would be chosen. However - by accepting an award, the entrants are agreeing to sign over all Intellectual Property rights, AND to assist the corporation in supporting the IP that they have signed away!
This is like the guy who steals your car asking you to pay for it's servicing. Even if the corporation paid the full $15,000 to all of the entrants, they are effectively buying IP very, very cheaply.  This competition was being retweeted and publicised by organisations that should know better, and lent the competition some undeserved credibility.

I've seen this sort of behaviour before, and whilst it is no doubt legal, it stinks to high heaven. With the global economy in recession, the green sector seems to be the only game in town and that means that all sorts of organisations are looking for the next big "green" thing - so if you think that you have a great idea, make sure that you keep it - read the small print, and only enter competitions that are run by well respected organisations that don't have any ulterior motives (like the Green Challenge ;).

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Serene on the surface, but underneath...

Well five months have passed since my last update, and at first glance, not much seems to have happened, but dig a little deeper, and we have been very busy, albeit "below the surface". The RB2 has been testing for over a year now, and has been performing exactly as we hoped it would. That means that we have now got a "stable technology", i.e. the design is now finalised, and will not be changed when we go into production. In the meantime we have been addressing all of the less exciting, but necessary things that go into the launch of a product. Certification has been a major issue for us - we want people to be confident that the RidgeBlade will perform to specifications, and certification is one way that we can prove this to be the case. So far we have achieved CE certification, and we have just agreed a testing programme that should see us achieve MCS certification in the UK, as well as IEC61400, and the AWEA certification for the US market. We expect the testing to take about 12months.   So why all this testing? Well, even in our own industry we've seen what a product recall can do to a company - one minute market leader, and the next in administration. We have to be 110% sure that the product is ready for market, or we risk everything. In other matters we have arranged for product liability insurance - which is not always easy for new and innovative products. We are also working with installers to produce an installation procedures manual, and also looking at what the operation and maintenance schedule should be.

On the commercial front, we are partnering with a small number of organisations that can help us to widen the testing programme, installing RidgeBlades on a variety of roofs, in a variety of locations: agricultural buildings, warehouses, distribution centres, light industrial and commercial buildings. All of this data will help us to accurately predict what power a RidgeBlade will produce on any given roof in any location. Some of these partner organisations are very well known - household names in the UK and Europe. The proposed test installations will be of a variety of sizes, ranging from small, 12 meter installations, to a 100 meter installation with a capacity of over 50kw.

Oh, and one other thing - we have commissioned a video! As soon as it's completed we'll put a link on the website, but it will show the making and installation of a RidgeBlade, from factory to roof.

So whilst it might seem that not much has changed, we are much closer to a commercial launch than we were before, and if the progress made has not been exciting, it's been necessary. Hopefully the next post will have some photos of more actual installations and some more exciting news!

Friday, 6 April 2012

So much to tell, so little time...

I'll start off by offering the now traditional apology for the length of time since my last post, but in my defence we have been very busy.. In the last year we have had a major redesign of the RidgeBlade, making it more efficient, lighter, cheaper to manufacture, and even developing a version that doesn't need a pitched roof! We now have two versions of the RidgeBlade, with the main difference only being in size - the smaller version is designed for domestic houses, and the larger one for agricultural and industrial buildings. The new versions have been in test for over 6 months now, and we are happy to report that they are performing exactly as expected, producing good power, silently and without vibration. So how much power? Well, in an average UK location (average wind speed), the larger version will produce an annual output of over 3200kwh from a 10 module installation. As for noise, well, whilst I said "silently" earlier, nothing is totally silent, and at full speed, the RidgeBlade generates 66.1 Db which is inaudible over the sound of the wind. Were we pleased? Oh yes! A lot of work has gone into the noise elimination technology and our Technical Director deserves a hearty pat on the back for the stunning results.

Another change to the design is the aerodynamically controlled over-speed protection. What's that you say? Effectively it means that the rotors reach their maximum speed at 25mph wind speeds and above that wind speed, the rotor speed remains constant so that they do not spin out of control. This also means that we do not need the electrically operated shutter mechanism seen on version 1, so the design is much lighter, simpler and cheaper. The unit has seen some pretty impressive storms over the winter, and measured wind speeds of nearly 70mph, and it worked perfectly. Smug? Us? You bet.

The next question that you will ask is "What does it cost?". Slightly more difficult here - until the units go into full production it's difficult to say what the final price will be, but it looks very likely that they will provide power more cheaply than solar pv, which was one of our objectives.

The other question that we are getting asked a lot is "when can I buy one?" Again - difficult to be precise, but we are in discussions at the moment that will hopefully see RidgeBlades being manufactured in the near future - and judging by the level of enquiries that we are getting form around the world, not just in the UK.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A summer update..

Time for another update! Here at the Power Collective, it has been an interesting time recently - a number of big decisions to make, and some interesting developments.. So what is new you ask? Well, As far as the RidgeBlade is concerned, we have been busy overcoming a number of small obstacles. After initial testing, we have decided that the units were too heavy, and that it would be sensible to produce most of the major components out of recycled plastic. In addition to reducing the weight (which makes the RidgeBlade quicker and easier to install) this will also have the effect of reducing the cost to the customer, and will reduce the amount of embedded carbon in the unit. However, making things in plastic requires a lot of effort on the pre-production design, a lot of cost for the tooling and more time.. Because we are desperate to see RidgeBlades on as many roofs as possible, it was this additional time that really made us think twice about going down the plastics route, but in the long run it will be worth it -the RidgeBlade will be inexpensive, lighter and easier to assemble/install. We have been in very detailed discussions with a major plastics manufacturer here in the UK, who are currently working on the initial designs and will have production plans ready within a couple of weeks.

All of this unfortunately means that we have pushed back the date when RidgeBlades will be available, but in the meantime, we have been busy on another version of the RidgeBlade (we haven't named it yet, so the working title of RB2 will have to do!). The RB2 is specifically designed for use on industrial, commercial and agricultural buildings, and is roughly twice the size of the original. There are a number of technical differences to the RB2 to take account of the huge roofs that they will be installed on, and the differences in airflow. These units will be rugged and powerful, and are designed to pay for themselves in a relatively short time without governmental support in the form of a feed-in tariff . We expect the RB2 to be on sale within the next 2 months. Photos will be on the website as soon as we can. On the issue of planning permission, we have been working with the North York Moors National Park Authority, who tell us the the RB2 will not need full planning permission, (just agricultural notification - much less complicated) so that's another reason to choose RidgeBlade!

Anyway - back to work now!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The sincerest form of flattery is...

Over the last week I’ve been sent a number of perplexed emails pointing me in the direction of the Ecomagination competition run by the good people at GE, and more specifically to an entry called the “RidgeBlaster”. If you care to take a look at this entry, it may occur to you that it looks remarkably like the RidgeBlade. So much so that many of you have been asking "why have you changed the name and entered another competition when you have already won Europe's biggest prize and created a revolution in effective, discrete, low cost micro-wind technology?"

Well, to be absolutely clear, we have nothing whatsoever to do with the “RidgeBlaster”. As you can imagine, all of us at the Power Collective were amazed by the coincidence that the looks, function, claims, and name of the “RidgeBlaster” are so remarkably similar to that of the RidgeBlade. So amazed were we, in fact, that we had to ring our good friends at international law firm Macfarlanes and ask them if they were amazed too because, like us, they are great fans of genuine innovation. I note that the person who has put entered the “RidgeBlaster” into the competition has a number of other entries, and I’m sure that if all of his ideas are as original as the “RidgeBlaster”, then he will certainly achieve the level of commercial success that he deserves.

So, here at Power Collective HQ we all wish the entrant well and I’m sure that, like us, he will appreciate the huge task that is ahead of him. When we won the Green Challenge with the RidgeBlas, sorry, RidgeBlade (confusing isn’t it?) we had 2 years of R&D behind us and a working prototype designed by our Technical Director, a former Rolls Royce engineer, trained in turbine blade design. We were also well advanced with the trivial issue of intellectual property and our leadership team contained one of the UK's leading manufacturing specialists and a man who is known as the 'National Grid' given how well connected he is in the legal, environment and energy markets. Even then we underestimated the task ahead of us in turning the concept into a marketable product. Noise, vibration, safety, performance, certification, reliability, insurance, every one of these issues has to be tested and addressed thoroughly before a product can be put on sale. Any defect or design flaw could necessitate a recall, and if that were to happen, then not only would the RidgeBlade be a flawed product, but the whole concept of low cost roof mounted urban wind turbines would be discredited.

As you will know if you’ve been following this blog, we are now testing the final product, and whilst I’m sure that this could have been achieved more quickly if we had unlimited resources behind us, I don’t think that we’ve done too badly. When the RidgeBlade is launched we can be confident that it has been thoroughly tested, and will produce useable electricity safely and without noise or vibration. It’s the real deal, and it’s worth waiting for.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

At last we have some good news to report! As I mentioned before, we have had delivery of the first 10 RidgeBlades. After a slight delay due to the heavy snow, we have now got the first two units installed, and we are very pleased with the results. As you can see, the finished unit looks very much like the artist's impression in the previous blog entry. As with any new product we have encountered a few small teething problems which are already fixed, and will be incorporated into future production versions of the RidgeBlade. Until you actually have a builder on a roof installing the things, all you have is theory, and the modifications are mostly to do with making the units easier to work with and install - I'm pleased to say the the actual operation of the units is exactly as we had expected. It's too soon for any output figures yet, but there's nothing to suggest that we are going to be disappointed. One thing that I can say is that the units operate almost silently - so that's another objective achieved. As ever, we seem to be progressing much more slowly than we would like, especially given the level of interest around the world, and it can sometimes be very frustrating, but I recently spoke to someone within a much larger wind turbine company, and they were amazed at how far we had come in so short a time, so I suppose that it is all a question of perspective. So our "to do" list is pretty clear: incorporate modifications into the design of the next production units, install the remaining 8 RidgeBlades, gather lots of data about real-world performance, and then see if anyone wants to buy one....

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A Quick Update..

I know that it has been a while since I updated this blog, but in my defence we have been very busy here at The Power Collective. Since the last update we have made a few small (but important) improvements to the design, and started manufacturing RidgeBlades. The finalised design will look something like the artist's impression that you see here, although in this picture the scale is wrong, and the RidgeBlade is actually smaller than shown. The first batch of units are all due to be installed on locations in the UK and in the Netherlands for a period of testing and evaluation. The test sites include domestic houses, industrial, commercial and agricultural buildings. We Expect to receive the first batch of manufactured RidgeBlades in the beginning of December 2010, and we will be updating the website in the new year with specifications, initial test results and photographs of the installed turbines (assuming that the snow holds off long enough for us to actually get on roofs safely!). Talking of websites, we will soon be moving most of our information over to, so be ready to update your bookmarks.

On other matters, it seems that we will not be able to get the RidgeBlade tested against the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. This is not because of any problem with the turbine, but simply because the standard does not make any provision for "unusual" types of wind turbines such as ours.. Until this is resolved, it does mean that The RidgeBlade will not be eligible for the enhanced feed in Tariff in the UK. Rest assured that we are working hard to rectify this, but we do not expect this to be a quick job..

Interest in the RidgeBlade has continued to be phenomenal, and we are still receiving enquiries form all over the world. We simply don't have time to respond to all of them, but we do log every enquiry and will keep you all informed when we are in a position to start selling. In the meantime we have been having a number of very interesting conversations with potential users including social housing providers in the UK and Europe as well as some very large commercial and industrial companies, so watch this space!