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Wind makes like a cell phone, gets small and cheap

Enormous, utility scale wind turbines have the most sex appeal, but costs are falling for wind generation at all scales. The day may come when your rooftop windmill costs less than your TV.

In some cases, costs are dropping not as a result of technological innovation but as consequence of smart reuse. As the early wind farms created decades ago become decommissioned and replaced by much bigger installations, an industry has sprung up to salvage the old turbines, refurbish them, and sell them on the cheap.

Not only do these midsize turbines cost about half as much as they would new, but waiting times for delivery are significantly shorter. The older turbines are well-suited for schools, businesses, or rural communities with modest power needs. Typically, refurbishment also includes some technological upgrades, such as electronic controls that can be accessed via the Internet.

Recycled turbines are cheap, but still far out of reach for homeowners. If Chad Maglaque, inventor of The Jellyfish, has his way, you’ll be able to walk into a big box retailer and, for a few hundred bucks, walk out with one of these:

The Jellyfish uses a simple motor akin to the one in a household blender to produce power. Simply mount the turbine on your roof and plug it into a standard socket. Rather than drawing a current, it produces one, and any electricity you don’t use is fed back into the grid.

The Jellyfish doesn’t produce an enormous amount of power, but it does pay itself back in about seven years under typical conditions. If it only costs as much as an iPod, that’s an expense many homeowners may be willing to bear.

The product is eligible to win $10 million in financing through the Google Idea Contest. If you’re a fan of the concept, head on over to the contest web site to vote.

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