Spotlight On… Chava Wind LLC: Making Small Wind Mainstream
Hagen Ruff is the Founder and CEO of Chava Wind LLC. The company launched the Chava Wind project in 2013 with a specific mission: “Making Small Wind Mainstream.”
The small wind industry or so-called “Point-of-Use” wind power generation has been stagnant. The reason is that the commonly available horizontal axis propellers are considered a utilitarian nuisance rather than a desirable clean energy device. Any such “Point-Of-Use” devices are by definition close to people, which means they have to represent an inspiring design to find acceptance in the community.
In this feature, we put the spotlight on Chava Wind LLC and Hagen to hear about their unique wind turbines and the future of energy technologies.
What motivated you to begin your career in energy technologies after a professional career as an executive and entrepreneur in management consulting and IT services?
Even as a child, I’ve always had a passion for science and technology. At age 10, I started building my own versions of very fast flying remote-controlled model airplanes, and at age 17, I started writing software programs to improve the performance of my race bikes (yes, on professional race tracks, not on illegal and suicidal street racing events). After graduating in early 1991, with an MS in Mechanical Engineering in Germany, I wanted to join the renowned think-tank engineering team of Porsche, which is located in a large green-field facility, far away from production lines. But due to their post-recession hiring freeze, I got recruited by a US Consulting firm, Andersen Consulting, now Accenture, which catapulted me right into the IT and internet boom-years of the nineties. I ended up with my own company, Business Information Solutions LLC, which specialized in the relatively novel (at the time) field of Business Intelligence applications. After my company was bought by Sapient Corporation (now Publicis Sapient) and I reached a certain level of financial independence, I decided to turn back to my roots (and passion) to discover breakthrough developments with the potential to alter the clean energy industry.
I invested a handsome amount of money in the more esoteric ‘free energy scene’ through a newly formed entity Chava Energy. But after several years of seeing dozens, if not hundreds, of inventors in this field all around the world, I realized that this scene is spiked with many players that are either delusional or flat out fraudulent. And although the vast majority of the funds invested in those projects came from me personally, some people inevitably associated us with some of the “other players”, which led me to take a break in searching for ‘quantum-leap’ energy breakthroughs and put my attention to more conventional, yet revolutionary, clean energy consumer products that can be deployed in any reasonably good wind locations with a manageable amount of permitting and bureaucracy. I am still convinced that some of the phenomena I have witnessed in the ‘free energy’ scene will ultimately see the light of day, but it will most likely take a much longer and resource-intensive effort.
What is the overall purpose and benefit of new energy technologies?
As an engineer, I have always been fascinated by the definition of ENERGY. Physically, energy is not only everywhere but also everything. Most of society perceives energy as the fuel powering the machines that enabled the industrial revolution, then transportation, and later our automated lifestyle, and the information age.
From the beginning of the industrial age until now, we have not only grown the human population of this planet almost 8-fold, we have also increased the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere from 290 ppm to over 400 ppm (an unprecedented speed compared to former ‘natural’ cycles which progressed over tens of thousands of years). But more importantly, we are depleting fossil fuels that have naturally ‘grown’ over hundreds of millions of years (yes that’s why they are called “fossil”) within a few centuries.
Even in times when large wind farms produce electricity at lower cost than natural gas plants, coal-plants, and even new nuclear plants (not to mention decentral Diesel generators which are off the charts), many people are still led to believe that fossil fuels are cheap, ‘do no harm’, and are virtually irreplaceable.
We know that our ‘Small Wind’ 25KW Windleaf25a VAWT (or Vertical Axis Wind Turbine) will not solve the planet’s energy predicament alone. However, we created a product that we believe is beautiful enough for people to accept living around it. So we hope to bring new and visible ‘fresh wind’ into the somewhat stagnant image of the current Small Wind market.
Our product is small (up to 20 households per turbine) and designed for decentral deployment, even off-grid. It cannot replace large-scale central power plants, but it can help to remind people that the shift to clean energy does not have to be painful or ugly.
What makes your Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs) unique compared to traditional wind turbines and other energy methods?
The high-efficiency type of VAWTs called “Darrieus Type” (which is a lift design) are required to operate in their optimal so-called “Tip-Speed-Ratio” (TSR), which is the ratio between the wind-speed and blade-speed, in order to maintain its highest efficiency. In ever-changing natural winds at low elevations, this is not a trivial task to achieve, and none of the previous products ever addressed that issue sufficiently. Our software control system took over 2 years to fully develop and it ensures that the turbine always operates in the optimal TSR and automatically adjusts to constantly changing wind conditions in the most efficient way.
How is structural integrity and low cost achieved at CHAVA?
Regarding reliability, we fully understood the challenges of previous VAWT developments regarding inherent vibrations, harmonics, structural stresses, and bearing failures. It ultimately became an engineering challenge by using the most modern composite materials, making small but crucial structural improvements, and most importantly, develop a software control system that ‘smart senses’ the key challenges and proactively avoids any potential harm to the components.
What advancements do you hope for in the future of energy technology and wind turbines at the company?
After we have obtained the final international IEC certification for our 25KW product, our team will continue to make improvements, work on cost reductions, and also launch the development of a 100KW version for larger industrial applications, or larger communities.
Small Wind Technology will never become a mass consumer product (except for household ‘micro-turbines’ in the under 500 Watt category), as it is too complex for average homeowners, especially in densely populated areas. However, it can definitely evolve into a mainstream product for industrial parks, new suburban developments, public buildings, schools, agriculture, rural homes, and islands.