Skystream 5.0

Truth SquadTruth Squad Solar Expert Posts: 126 ✭✭
Well, for those who haven't heard, Southwest Windpower is trying to develop another version of Skystream. This one is supposed to generate more power than 3.7. Know how they're going to accomplish this? By putting bigger blades on the current Skystream.

Now, there are several points to be made here.

1.) I happen to know that the original DOE grant for Skystream---known as Storm back then---that SWWP inherited from World Power (one of the big reasons SWWP bought World Power) called for a 5kw turbine. They tried and tried but could not build a 5kw turbine within the parameters they had for Storm such as quietness, size, etc. So, they tried to do a 3kw. At the end of the day, they ended up with a 1.8kw. Except recently, SWWP "suddenly discovered" the 1.8kw is actually a 2.4kw. I think the fact that some states' incentive programs have a 2.4kw minimum might have had something to do with that discovery. But, the question is this: If increasing output was a simple matter of increasing blade size, why wasn't this done in the beginning? During the 5 years Skystream was in R&D?

2.) If increasing power is a simple matter of increasing blade size, why doesn't the military increase the slingload weight-carrying ability of the CH-47 helicopter by increasing the size of the blades? I would bet because it isn't safe and leads to greater wear on parts made for the smaller blades. And the increased load capacity would probably not be that significant, either.

3.) An interesting thing was the fact that Skystream 5.0 suddenly became a huge priority right around the time a certain big-box store said that they would be interested in more power than 3.7 coulod provide. So, there's a very interesting point. The needs of big-box stores are what drove that market, not what the customers said. This is because the idea was that if a big-box chain bought Skystreams (on special towers for powering parking lot lights), it would increase the value of SWWP stock shares and thus provide them with the opportunity to do an IPO and pop their golden parachutes. Bearing in mind that 3.7 still had several problems, which one imagines would be passed on to the new owners. Oops.

4.) If you haven't worked out the problems with 3.7, why on Earth would you waste engineering resources on another version of that same turbine? Fix what you've got first. But, as I said, the emphasis is on taking the company public and popping golden parachutes, not necessarily getting Skystream right.

5.) Bear in mind they're putting bigger blades on the same Skystream 3.7. Same housings, same bearings. Now, there have already been 3.7s that have went into overspeed and come off the tower. And I have photographic proof of that, by the way. What's going to happen with this one? I heard that putting bigger blades on this thing can't be done. The parts won't take the stress. But, see, when you're in a hurry to pop a golden parachute, you don't want to take the time to build a new bird from scratch. Just put bigger blades on what you've got! And, as I said, if this was all it took to increase output safely and reliably, why wasn't this done in the years Skystream was in development?

6.) One again, why not concentrate on fixing what you're got? The story is the company has to keep an eye to the future and always be developing new products to remain competitive. Uh....ok....but shouldn't what you've already got work reliably? And why the rush? One would think you could use the existing design, but increase the size of the housing and bearings to handle the increased loads. There is little "competition" in the grid-tied small wind market to speak of right now. But you know what will compete effectively? The first company that build something reliable and made quality Job One. Now, they were looking at making a 5.0 before the big-box said they wanted more power. But after they said that is when 5.0 became a huge important priority.

7.) If, as a company, you can't afford to keep employees and have to lay off 14 of them, why are you dumping needed cash into another version of the turbine you've already got? If you're hurting for cash that bad, how are you going to be able to continue spending on 5.0 and do the year of beta testing once you have it finished? Ah, but that is assuming they would do a year of beta testing, isn't it? I guess something like this would make sense if 3.7 was flawless, but it isn't. It smacks of desperation and a lack of clear direction. It's just like after hiring a Vice President of Sales and Marketing, now they're looking for a Strategic Account Manager for sales. Hmmmm.....sounds like they're having problems selling these things, since they already had a sales manager, several sales reps, and some dealer support reps before bringing on the VP. And why would they be having problems selling these things? The economy? Could be, except actual sales were never near their forecasts. Why is that? I daresay the quality, reliability, and cost of the turbine. See, back when the National Geographic article that mentioned Skystream a few years ago came out, SWWP said it would be around $3000 for the whole shebang---turbine, tower, wireless remote. The price kept going up to the point where it now must have a grant to pay for itself in many places. I'm sorry, but if it requires a grant to pay for itself, it doesn't pay for itself. The taxpayers pay for it, which is a sort of pseudo corporate welfare. "Our product can't pay for itself, but the government will make up the difference. See how great small wind works?" Indeed, it works well---for the manufacturers, in such cases. People also can see neighbors who put up the Skystream and see the cranes arriving to take it down. Word travels fastest by word-of-mouth.

8.) Most of the engineers who were involved in Skystream from the beginning are gone now. So, you've got people now who are coming in to this and don't really know why such-and-such was done. Not that a new engineer can't come in and say, "This shouldn't have been done this way." Because that's often valuable. But you do need to kind of "mentor in" with something and understand what it is before making changes. It's not the fault of the engineers. They're just trying to do their jobs. But management needs to understand that and make greater efforts to retain valuable employees. That goes not just for engineering, but the company as a whole. It was said by a manager shortly before I was laid off that, "No one is irreplaceable. The company can find 100 people to do your job tomorrow." Indeed, they can. But they cannot replace the knowledge those employees take out the door with them and the company, thus, then repeats avoidable mistakes that are then usually borne by the customers. This kind of thinking is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

At the end of all this, is the summary. There are serious safety questions that should be asked when a company is putting bigger blades on a wind turbine designed for residential areas. Not to mention the fact that the 5.0 is being rushed for a big-box's parking lots. When a company is in a rush to make money, they might overlook other things, too, such as reliability and lifespan. These are the questions that need to be asked today in small wind.

Comments

  • WindsunWindsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
    Re: Skystream 5.0

    It was my understanding that the Skystream was raised from 1.8 to 2.4 to increase the rebate/tax incentives, not because of any design changes or improvements in performance.
  • Truth SquadTruth Squad Solar Expert Posts: 126 ✭✭
    Re: Skystream 5.0

    Yes, that is correct. There were no changes made when Skystream 3.7 went from 1.8kw to 2.4kw. Well, the sales literature was changed. :roll:

    The Skystream 5.0 is a different thing, though. They're trying to push beyond 2.4kw by putting bigger blades on the 3.7, thus making it a 5.0.
  • halfcrazyhalfcrazy Solar Expert Posts: 720 ✭✭✭
    Re: Skystream 5.0

    sadly it looks like SWWP is going to burn a ton of bridges and keep shipping junk we have a local builder here who is selling them and puts them anywhere. I stumbled on one of his the other day there is 2 hills about 250 ft tall with a valley in the middle. guess where the skystream is? yep in the valley surrounded by 60 ft tall trees and it is on a 30 ft tower i will get a picture this week.

    It would appear to me that SWWP cares nothing about us installers who have been around they just want product out the door and will let anyone sell them. Maybe the 5.0 will be available as a roof mount at walmart just deploy it and plug it into the outside receptacle.
  • IowaSolarGuyIowaSolarGuy Registered Users Posts: 10
    Re: Skystream 5.0

    Hey Guys,

    I have installed 5 of these towers so far this year and they are all preforming pretty well. I have seen as much as 3400 watts out of these turbines. The change from 1.8 to 2.4 was due to new inverters that allowed more power to be harnessed.

    Originally they were going to use the same nacell for the 5.0 but after initial tests this proved to be impossible due to the size of the new inverters. They are changing the yaw bearning on the 5.0 to a new one.

    The Skystream 3.7 was released prematurely this was due to the NREL grant they received to engineer this turbine. They were forced to release or loose their funding.

    I will agree that their customer support and management team leaves something to be desired. Their turbine may not be perfect but from what I have seen they are working to fix these problems.

    I have not had many real issues with our machines and all my customers are extremely happy with their performance. So before you spout off on a very emotional tangent I would suggest you do a bit of research yourself into what is actually going on.

    Yes the company is doing everything they can for "profit" but this is the nature of a company with shareholders and the bane of capitalism.

    All in all it is one of the smartest turbines on the market and the only one that is capable of breaking itself with no mechanical wear. Not to mention the brain in the machine keeping everything safe.

    As for the local builder, well we see that kind of ignorance in every sector. This largest killing blow for the entire wind industry not just SWWP's turbines. You see Bergeys' Jacobs and all sort of stuff in non windy areas due to dealers pushing this stuff in places it should not be sold. This is a lack of knowledge training and various other sorts of issues.

    In Iowa we have a company who sold and collected money for 74 large scale wind turbines 100,000 + jobs. They have installed 4 and all of them have had serious problems. So it is not just southwest who bears bad scars from greedy and uneducated renewable energy dealers.

    By all means by from China, then we can use tax payers money to subsidize foreign countries.
  • Truth SquadTruth Squad Solar Expert Posts: 126 ✭✭
    Re: Skystream 5.0

    Yes, Southwest Windpower will sign up anyone as a dealer-installer. No experience? No problem! The sad part is, years ago, there were once a lot of very reputable, experienced dealers who got fed up with SWWP and just kind of faded away. There have been very bad installations of Skystream due to dealers with zero wind experience. The fact is, SWWP will tell you they have dealer training seminars, and they do. But new dealers can be selling and installing all the while prior to attending one. If they bother to attend. Also, their distributors can sign people up as dealers.

    You know, you need training or experience or both to install wind turbines. You can't just read a book at the library or learn how in a 10 minute phone call with some guy at SWWP. I saw a photo of one install where the Skystream was mounted on a steep pipe stuck in the ground. That's right, just packed-earth around the pipe. Another one, the installer bolted the tower baseplate direct to the concrete pad instead of using the standoff nuts. Cracked the foundation.

    Yes, Southwest Windpower envisions Skystreams sold from a certain big-box home improvement store. So now you'll add the untrained consumer to the equation. Oh, but wait, Southwest Windpower says! This big-box store is going to have installers there to do it! Oh, really? That's easier said than done. The turnover rate at big-box stores is pretty high. I've seen some of the work done by name-brand-store people in Los Angeles and it was of such poor quality, it beggared belief. More than likely, you'll have the customers who think they can do it themselves and they will, and someone could get hurt. This is not installing a TV antenna on the roof. This is a large piece of equipment on a minimum 33' tower. And you know how it'll be sold to get these peoples' attention:

    SPIN YOUR METER BACKWARDS!!!

    These folks envision the power company sending THEM a check instead of the other way around. This is one of the most unfortunate phrases every to be uttered in the history of small wind. It insinuates something for nothing, and we all know there is no free lunch.

    Southwest Windpower places ads in certain environmentalism-oriented magazines to appeal to the eco-conscious. Well, pardon me, but how "green" is it to be replacing circuit boards so soon after installing Skystreams and at the quantity those failures occur? Especially when it's due to poor quality and poor design features? Where do those circuit boards end up? In the trash, where they will remain in landfills for thousands of years, because they do not biodegrade. Also, in case no one at SWWP remembers, the copper for those circuit boards comes from gigantic open pit mines. Certain noxious chemicals are used in printed circuit board manufacture. To sit there and tout onself as "green" while continuing to do things that are decidedly not "green" is to ascend to the pinnacle of hypocrisy. But it's all about marketing. If you can say you are "green" in an ad, many Americans will believe it. Even if one of your investors manufactures nuclear reactors and another is an oil company.

    Southwest Windpower has come a long way since the days of 2131 North First Street, Flagstaff, AZ. Sadly, it hasn't been a good way. The money that was invested could have produced a reliable, quality, outstanding wind turbine. Instead, it turned into "all about the hype" to pop golden parachutes.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,924 admin
    Re: Skystream 5.0

    I would guess, from this point on for Truth Squad (and others)--They know quite a bit about what happened in the past for SWWP--however SWWP has the ability to change what they are doing going forward.

    So--speculation about their future products (without current involvement) is probably not going to be too useful.

    Talking about past and current issues, and asking the vendor how they have been addressed (and hopefully solved) if/when the next generation products come out are fair questions.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • WindsunWindsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
    Re: Skystream 5.0
    BB. wrote: »
    ...however SWWP has the ability to change what they are doing going forward....

    You would think so, but we have been selling the Air/Air-403/Air-X etc line for some 20 years, and they have yet to get a unit that (1) the blades last, or (2) the circuit board does not blow out commonly.
  • Truth SquadTruth Squad Solar Expert Posts: 126 ✭✭
    Re: Skystream 5.0

    IowaSolarGuy, you wouldn't happen to be Todd (a SWWP dealer), would you? Because, if so, I saw the photos of that Skystream that came off the pole.

    You said:
    "So before you spout off on a very emotional tangent I would suggest you do a bit of research yourself into what is actually going on."

    I worked there 10 years. I was there before Skystream was a warm, fuzzy thought in Southwest Windpower's head. I do know what's going on there and that's why I'm here blowing the whistle.


    You also said:
    "The Skystream 3.7 was released prematurely this was due to the NREL grant they received to engineer this turbine. They were forced to release or loose their funding."

    Oh, is this what SWWP is telling people now? Wow, I never heard this one before. Can you provide the NREL document to prove that?

    You also said:
    "Originally they were going to use the same nacell for the 5.0 but after initial tests this proved to be impossible due to the size of the new inverters. They are changing the yaw bearning on the 5.0 to a new one."

    So, how do they plan to change the bearing without a bigger housing to fit it into? Or is that what you're saying; that they're planning to use a bigger housing? If so, that's very interesting, because I haven't heard that. Interesting that they didn't have the money to keep jobs, but would have money to invest in new tool and die. Somehow, I doubt this.

    Finally, you said:
    "By all means by from China, then we can use tax payers money to subsidize foreign countries."

    Indeed! Were you aware that SWWP is using their newly-acquired $10 million in investment money to expand operations in China? To open second production lines there? And made it quite clear that money would not be used to hire back the 14 people they laid off? Buy from China, you say? You should also be aware that some Skystream parts are manufactured in China.
  • halfcrazyhalfcrazy Solar Expert Posts: 720 ✭✭✭
    Re: Skystream 5.0

    I was told by a very reliable source the skydream was released early to peas there investors nothing to do with grants just that SWWP promised there investors a certain number of sales a month by a certain date.

    No one will ever convince me that SWWP cares about the end user or the Professional installer. Look at there track record.

    I also stand by the theory that inverters don't belong in the air inside a turbine that isn't water tight. Oh wait we have a solution drill a hole in the thing. So instead of stopping the leak we will let the water run on threw it shouldn't hurt the inverter as it wont be running any ways it is to cold.
  • Truth SquadTruth Squad Solar Expert Posts: 126 ✭✭
    Re: Skystream 5.0

    You know, even if they did release prematurely, what does that say about their integrity? "Well, the government wouldn't keep funding us, so we went ahead and released a clunker. Sorry." Yeah, how comforting! But that isn't what happened. It's just one more of the littany of excuses SWWP rolls out to cover up their own lack of integrity. Your source told you correctly, Halfcrazy. The release was part of their "timeline" to the IPO.

    Also, Halfcrazy, PM me if you'd like to see photos of what happens when a Skystream fills with water and the overspeed protection shorts out.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,924 admin
    Re: Skystream 5.0

    I am just trying keep the thread on track and not stray too far from known facts (such as can a leopard change its spots or can a tiger change its stripes)... Ignore me. ;)

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • dwhdwh Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
    Re: Skystream 5.0
    All in all it is one of the smartest turbines on the market and the only one that is capable of breaking itself

    Typo, or divine intervention?
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