OT: The Orb for Alternative Energy

Lots of folks here talk about alternative energy sources. I’m not an expert in this area at all, so I mainly read. But a few months ago, I posted in response to an alternative energy source post a link to my neighbor’s alternative energy production company → https://arcindustries.co

We have been looking at this contraption that our neighbor designed, built and deployed in their front yard for the past year or so, and it finally disappeared. When we asked where it went, we learned that it has been deployed at the Burlington, VT airport as a pilot to see if it works as described.

Here’s a link to the article that describes The Orb and what the folks in VT are hoping it does for them.


Not sure if anyone here has any thoughts / input on this, but I thought I would share. If our young entrepreneur neighbor (still living with Mom) makes a ton of money on these things, then maybe he will be able to actually move out to his own place :wink: We’re actually happy that we don’t need to look at the thing any more!!

==> To Orb or Not to Orb, that is the question


As with so many alternative energy ideas (wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, etc.) the question is: What is the capital investment to install the generator? How much power does it produce? How long would it take to break even with non-renewable energy sources?


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From the linked article:

The Orb, tagged with model number ORB-A-001, will be ARC’s first-ever deployment of its new energy technology and will provide BED with the opportunity to pilot a potential means of further diversifying its renewable energy offerings in Burlington’s urban environment. The Orb is a low-profile, rooftop wind turbine that will produce enough electricity for about 1.5 homes. The $20,000 cost of The Orb is being shouldered by Massachusetts-based ARC, with BED taking care of the installation. At the end of the one-year pilot program BED would have the option of buying the unit.

Monteith said he expects the unit cost to get down to about $10,000 in about a year, making it more price competitive with solar.

The only issue that I have with this device is that when the wind is not blowing, it’s like a solar array at night - zero output.

This contraption needs to be installed where there is constant wind, paired with another energy source, or combined with battery storage to be really feasible.

==> not sure if the cost is comparable to solar…


A bit behind the times.


I have been following for a couple years, but could not get anything solid to work with. They seem to have moved toward higher power generation, which was what I was seeking for commercial use.


The Vermont Biz link in the OP says these Orb devices cost $20,000 and can deliver 3 kilowatts of power. That puts the price at $6,667 per kilowatt.

For the larger, wind farm scale turbines in the 2 to 3 MW range, the following link says the current installed price is $1500 per kw.

I didn’t see anything about how much electricity these Orbs are expected to produce in a year. Maybe I missed it. I also didn’t see anything useful at the Arc Industries’ website regarding capacity factor or expected generation. These smaller turbines generally perform worse than the larger MW scale machines. So, at a per-kilowatt cost of more than 4 times other, larger wind turbines, with unknown performance characteristics, I will keep my skeptic hat on, for the time being.

  • Pete
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I got the impression that these are smaller designs on purpose so as to be able to operate comfortably on your roof. The lower efficiency is an unfortunate byproduct.



That is true. They are designed more for light commercial use and installed on a roof.



Let’s run the math on that.

Wind power generally produces about 30% of its stated capacity in kWh. So a 3 kW Orb should produce about 3 kW * 24 hours * 30% or 21 kWh per day on average. For a year, that’s about 7700 kWh. (I’m rounding a bunch here, as the numbers don’t deserve more than 2 significant digits.)

How long will the Orb last? Beats me. Let’s guess 15 years. So that would be 115,500 kWh over it’s life time. Divide that into the installation cost, and we get about 17 cents per kWh. That’s comparable to retail utility rates. A bit less than retail in some places, a bit more in others.

Because these are small wind turbines, they’re meant for use on a small scale. So the cost comparison should be to retail utility rates. Even at an installation price that 4 times the cost of large scale wind turbines, it’s competitive with current electric rates.

With the assumptions I’ve made, putting an Orb on your roof will make sense in some places and won’t in others. Kind of like solar panels. A home solar installation costs quite a bit more per kW than a utility scale solar installation. But it can still make sense for some homeowners.


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The company’s FAQ says 20 - 25 years, but this appears to be a new product, so its really a guess from the manufacturer.


If there are federal, state and/or local subsidies available in the form of production tax credits or investment tax credits, that would also affect the cost-benefit analysis. The recently passed IRA makes a lot of money available to encourage clean energy.

  • Pete

The article mentions getting the cost down to $10,000 for mass production. They also estimated a 20 year plus life. So that would improve the numbers considerably. And I’ve noticed a lot more articles about these horizontal wind systems. Seems to be a coming thing.



But not at the societal level. The cost is still there, it’s just that someone else (you and me) are paying for it.



But if you’re talking societal level, then you also need to include the cost of fossil fuel pollution in terms of illness, death, lost work, lost quality of life, degradation of the environment and ecosystem, global warming and other climate change, etc …

Which is why we have the subsidies for the clean energy.


$375m Derby tidal power project likely dead in the water

The Derby Tidal Project was first proposed in 1999, but was rejected by the EPA due to unknown risks…A second plan was proposed in 2013 and approved, but was given a time limit of five years. Delays had meant approval had since lapsed.


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Years ago I showed a tidal project in Scotland to a naval or marine architect friend of mine. He just shook his head so I didn’t invest.

The Captain