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Gale-force controversy

The debate over Mag-Wind is raging on green energy Internet forums, too. Critics argue with supporters about whether the unproven technology will produce power as advertised. A few would-be customers in the U.S. also complained about an unauthorized dealer in the Midwest, now under investigation by the FBI, who allegedly took deposits for non-existent Mag-Wind turbines. The gale-force controversy has surprised Mag-Wind founder Rowan. The delays and problems are real, he admitted - but so is the technology. Back in 2005, when Rowan and co-inventor Thomas Priest-Brown unveiled their prototype in Thorold, they hoped to be producing and delivering commercial units by the end of 2006. ...Well-known wind advocate Paul Gipe has called the company's power claims for the turbine "outlandish" on his website, www.wind--works.org. ...Gipe's best advice: make sure you understand what you're buying. "If you're going to spend $10,000, or $50,000 or $100,000 on a wind turbine, do your homework," he said.

Two years after it was unveiled, a new wind turbine has faced delays in production and criticism, but its co-inventor remains confident of its success

A new wind turbine billed as revolutionary by its local co-inventor is whipping up controversy across North America.

The Mag-Wind 1100, a roof-mounted, pyramid-shaped wind turbine, was unveiled in Thorold two years ago by Fonthill resident and co-inventor Jim Rowan.

It's meant to amplify the unique wind conditions on a peaked roof, said Rowan, potentially providing 1,100 kilowatt hours of electricity per month.

But critics say the claims are overblown - and customers in Niagara and as far away as Montana are still waiting for delivery.

Beamsville resident Tom Harbottle, 86, ordered a Mag-Wind 1100 in the summer of 2006, said his daughter-in-law Lucinda Harbottle.

Close to a year later, they asked local distributor Niagara Windpower for their $9,500 deposit back - and waited.

"We're still waiting," said Lucinda, who has contacted the provincial Ministry of Government Services and asked it to broker a settlement.

"It's been nothing but excuse after excuse."

Niagara Windpower president Mike Fournier said the money will be returned, but... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Two years after it was unveiled, a new wind turbine has faced delays in production and criticism, but its co-inventor remains confident of its success

A new wind turbine billed as revolutionary by its local co-inventor is whipping up controversy across North America.

The Mag-Wind 1100, a roof-mounted, pyramid-shaped wind turbine, was unveiled in Thorold two years ago by Fonthill resident and co-inventor Jim Rowan.

It's meant to amplify the unique wind conditions on a peaked roof, said Rowan, potentially providing 1,100 kilowatt hours of electricity per month.

But critics say the claims are overblown - and customers in Niagara and as far away as Montana are still waiting for delivery.

Beamsville resident Tom Harbottle, 86, ordered a Mag-Wind 1100 in the summer of 2006, said his daughter-in-law Lucinda Harbottle.

Close to a year later, they asked local distributor Niagara Windpower for their $9,500 deposit back - and waited.

"We're still waiting," said Lucinda, who has contacted the provincial Ministry of Government Services and asked it to broker a settlement.

"It's been nothing but excuse after excuse."

Niagara Windpower president Mike Fournier said the money will be returned, but couldn't say Friday how or when.

"We're in the process of fixing that up," Fournier said.

"We're making arrangements."

Fournier said about two dozen customers initially ordered Mag-Wind 1100s from Niagara Windpower.

Some later switched their orders to more traditional wind and solar technologies, Fournier said.

But others are still waiting.

"It's not a good thing. We've obviously received complaints," Fournier said.

"But I can tell you we've been getting the same nasty surprises as everyone else."

Fournier said his company acted in good faith when it took deposits for Mag-Wind products from the Harbottles and others. "We expected to receive product. When you make that order, you genuinely expect that you're going to get it," he said.

Niagara Windpower's website still lists the Mag-Wind as an available product, but Fournier said he is no longer marketing or taking deposits for the new technology first showcased at his Thorold-based office.

"I've put the brakes on it," he said. "After a certain point, you have to have something to show for your efforts."

The debate over Mag-Wind is raging on green energy Internet forums, too.

Critics argue with supporters about whether the unproven technology will produce power as advertised.

A few would-be customers in the U.S. also complained about an unauthorized dealer in the Midwest, now under investigation by the FBI, who allegedly took deposits for non-existent Mag-Wind turbines. The gale-force controversy has surprised Mag-Wind founder Rowan.

The delays and problems are real, he admitted - but so is the technology.

Back in 2005, when Rowan and co-inventor Thomas Priest-Brown unveiled their prototype in Thorold, they hoped to be producing and delivering commercial units by the end of 2006.

About 200 turbines were produced in Texas that year, but not properly, he said.

"We tested them and found we couldn't distribute them. They just weren't up to the quality needed to do the job," Rowan said.

The production problems were followed by legal wrangling with their Texas-based partner, who has since left Mag-Wind, Rowan said.

The Fonthill man called the decision to manufacture turbines in Texas "a fundamental error," one he intends to correct by moving production to southern Ontario.

He said the company never intended to "shaft" anyone.

The infamous "rogue dealer" using Mag-Wind's name in the U.S. was never an official dealer for the company, Rowan said.

The company did authorize distributors like Niagara Windpower to take deposits, he said, and the initial goal was production in 2006. But Rowan said he wrote a letter for his distributors to give to customers "making it perfectly clear" there was no firm delivery date for the "prototype" technology.

Fournier disagrees, arguing he was led to believe turbine delivery was imminent on several occasions.

The Harbottles said the Mag-Wind was marketed to them as a commercially viable product - one that could be installed in a matter of months.

"If we had known it was just a prototype, we wouldn't have put any money down," Lucinda said.

Rowan said he wants "to make it up" to customers who feel they've been mistreated, but he hadn't worked out a plan as of Friday.

"One way or another, we're going to make sure these people don't get screwed," he said.

The Mag-Wind also faces skepticism in the green energy community.

Well-known wind advocate Paul Gipe has called the company's power claims for the turbine "outlandish" on his website, www.wind--works.org.

"It will turn, it will produce electricity, but the claims are exaggerated," the former executive director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association told The Standard in an interview.

"Unless they've discovered some new physical feature of the atmosphere that no one has understood before now, the amount of wind that pyramid will capture is limited."

Gipe said in general, rooftop turbines are a bad plan because the vibrations will damage the home.

He also suggested the shape of the Mag-Wind means it will capture less wind than a traditional turbine.

He's willing to revise his opinion if the company sends testing data his way, but so far, that hasn't happened.

Rowan said the Mag-Wind is designed to virtually eliminate roof vibration.

He added new, properly constructed turbines built at a test facility in Grimsby are scheduled to go up in Niagara and Toronto early in the new year.

He'll measure performance at these and other locations before releasing any test data to the public, he said.

But Rowan argued Gipe and other critics want him to measure his new technology by older-technology standards.

"That's not going to work. With any new technology, they're going to slay you in the early-going," he said.

"I can only say to critics, check back with us in five years. They didn't build the horizontal axis wind turbine overnight, either."

Gipe said he's not trying to take the wind out of the sails of new inventors.

"I'm a big proponent of developing renewable energy," said Gipe, an architect of Ontario's Standard Offer Program. "But it's very dangerous to oversell the promise of (wind)."

Online, arguments for and against the Mag-Wind are loaded with technical jargon. Gipe's best advice: make sure you understand what you're buying.

"If you're going to spend $10,000, or $50,000 or $100,000 on a wind turbine, do your homework," he said.


Source: http://www.stcatharinesstan...

DEC 31 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/12582-gale-force-controversy
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