Mariah Power, manufacturer of the relatively compact Windspire energy system, has closed the first half of an undisclosed second round of financing (PDF) that it will use to purchase a $2 million share in a Michigan manufacturing plant. The plant prompted a five-year partnership with MasTech Manufacturing, which has already kicked in $1.4 million toward the facility.
MasTech will also manage mass distribution of the Windspire, a 30-foot-tall propellerless turbine capable of generating 25 percent of a single home’s electrical needs (about 2,000 kW-hours per year, given an average wind speed of 12 miles per hour). Mariah has publicly called it the only vertical-axis wind energy system appropriate for widespread residential use, claiming that it can be installed by an average homeowner in just two hours and pay for itself in saved energy costs over the course of a decade.
While Mariah has significant traction in the small-unit wind market, it shouldn’t speak too soon. California-based Freetricity has developed its own rooftop wind turbine for residential (and even urban) use. Priced at $1,400 to $2,300, it provides a fairly affordable solution for lowering electric bills anywhere between 25 and 50 percent. Innovative models out of HelixWind and MagLev (which employs magnetic forces) also promise to halve energy costs. And the Air-X turbine is small and powerful enough to fuel a boat. Given the competition, the new manufacturing facility is definitely the way for Mariah to go if it wants to keep up.
The plant, operated by MasTech, will come online in March 2009, and is expected to produce 1,000 Windspire units every month for commercial sale. A promising 4,000 pre-orders have already been received at $4995 a pop — a figure that could climb as Mariah refocuses its efforts on marketing and sales. Interestingly, about 75 percent of orders are expected to come from overseas, particularly from developing nations in Asia and Latin America where large populations remain unhooked from central power grids. Residences account for one-third of this demand, with corporations and independent dealers comprising the rest, reports VentureWire.
This uptick should give Mariah the momentum it needs to carve out a slice of the emerging global cleantech sector. Based on its initial success, the company projects the creation of 116 new jobs by 2011. This is what president-elect Barack Obama’s talking about when he says he sees a new green economy (and all the jobs it will hopefully entail) just over the horizon.
Mariah and MasTech also have plans to roll out several new products, including a battery-charging device, a version of the Windspire tailored for wind speeds averaging 10 miles per hours (only about 40 percent of the U.S. gets 12-mile-per-hour gusts), and another incarnation that could potentially supply 100 percent of a home’s energy needs. These breakthroughs are also expected to drop during 2009.
While the Reno, Nev. company plans to raise the second half of the current investment round by the end of the year for international expansion, it says that will be the last venture backing it seeks before going public. It previously raised $1.5 million in first-round funding from Greenhouse Capital, BigSky Partners and Sierra Angels. The recent round was led by new investor Noventi Ventures.