Jay Leno's wind turbine

Ed Begley, Jr, says:

Thought I would send along this video from my friend Jay Leno about a new wind turbine called the MagWind from Enviro-Energies that he and I will be installing soon. As many of you have asked about "vertical axis wind turbines," I thought you'd like to see the latest in this technology.
Jay Leno's wind turbine


  1. I know I’d conserve more energy if I had a turban to keep my head warm. Do a lot of people pronounce turBINE like this?

  2. They had a whole bit about the maglev turbines on Ecopolis last night… Interesting design. They still seem really big though. Perhaps a bunch of little ones…

  3. Well, that’s nice, but I have a hard time imagining that friction losses are very significant to the overall efficiency. In particular considering this would appear to be a Savonius-type turbine, which aren’t as efficient as Darrieus-type turbines (and neither as efficient as horizontal-axis ones)

    So I poked around and found a guy who’d done the math:
    His conclusion?
    “This friction value is very small (6.8x10e-5 / 0.063 = 0.1%) when compare to the aerodynamics drag losses.”

    And that’s for a Darrieus-type turbine.

  4. This is a fraud.

    I looked into this very seriously about 2 years ago – I even was talking with them about becoming a regional distributor. But the numbers they’re claiming are way, way off. These turbines get nothing even close.

    Do a little research online.

  5. I’m not saying that this is a load of crap, but when you start mixing “free energy”, magnets, and frictionless bearings, my bullshit detectors wake up the whole neighborhood. Yes, I know this is not supposed to be a perpetual motion machine but all those elements reside on the same side of my brain.

  6. I walked past this vertical wind turbine on the way to work every day for a good part of 2008. I doubt it was maglev, but it was very pretty and futuristic – like a giant three-tentacled squid swimming vertically in place.

  7. I’d like to say something snarky, but honestly if the majority of Americans need “a regular guy” like jay Leno to sell this stuff, all the better.

  8. The point of the maglev is the bearings don’t wear out. There is no free energy machine, etc..

    or shake your roof apart

  9. I’ll say something snarky, most of us can’t afford these fancy toys for our energy needs. They don’t pay for themselves and they certainly aren’t feasible in places like LA where the wind is intermittent. Desert Hot Springs? maybe.. most places, no.

  10. I live in the city with the highest sustained winds of any in North America (and, consequently, most of the weather reporting bodies in the country), and I am most definitely looking into these turbines.

    For me it has nothing to do with the magical magnets, or the ‘practically free’ energy, or even the idea the the magnets cut down on the friction. . .

    For me it’s the simple fact that the entire setup is nearly silent at maximum operational speed, and I would like to be respectful of my neighbors’ rights to sleep on a windy night without making them acclimate to the constant and inescapable generator-esque whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr of an upright system.

    My Uncle has a turbine on his farm that is considered by many to be one of the quietest upright turbines they’ve ever heard, and I’ll be damned if you can’t hear the thing a quarter mile away on a windy day.

    He tells people it’s God blowing into a root beer bottle, but I don’t believe that to be the case.

  11. @Jack:

    Precisely. For all the stupid snark in this thread (Hey, did you know he has a big chin!) Leno reaches a HUGE audience and is a cultural fixture to a lot of people. Think of Andy Rooney or Jack Benny selling war bonds.

    Sean Penn isn’t going to sell people on green technologies.

  12. The lack of independent testing lab data on many similar “alternative energy” devices concerns would- be buyers. It certainly annoyed me. What we see on a TV show or “Fanboy Video” may serve as good PR for the “concept” And in that it’s of value. But seeing a set of tests by more than one lab replicate the same results is the pass/fail test. A trust worthy series of tests thus would improve MY trust at least.

    I want to believe…

    As the idea of being able to consider something like this wind turbine is affected by LACK of independent data. The lack of pictures on the website does not help. I truly hope this device and similar will turn our world around. But? As in “Trust But Verify”



    Thanks! But I will say this: Before he became the host of the Tonight Show he was really a great stand-up comedian. But the second he entered that day-to-day grind of creating and delivering material, he became instantly hacky. At least he’s using some of his power for good.

  14. “Thanks! But I will say this: Before he became the host of the Tonight Show he was really a great stand-up comedian.”

    …Actually, he wasn’t that great back then, either. Had the misfortune of having to review one of his live shows back in the mid-80’s. and I’ve heard first-timers deliver their lines better. Leno and Seinfeld have the same thing in common: I can’t for the like of me figure out why people think they’re funny.

  15. I’d like to see a company design a turbine that is 12″x6″, produces 100 watts @ 5mph and costs 20$. Something like that would make wind energy effective for the typical home owner. Just think your very own scalable mini wind farm. I’d cover my roof with them.

  16. The real problem with all these “off-grid” small-scale energy solutions is that they are horribly inefficient in an economic sense. Dollars are better invested in large scale commercial projects that truly have the potential to become cost-competitive with non-renewables.

    Up here in BC, people bang on about their personal tiny run-of-river hydro sets on the creeks running through their mountain properties. These faux-greenies conveniently ignore that there is nowhere near enough real estate nor flowing water to allow even a fraction of the population the follow their pious example.

    Don’t even get me started on hybrid cars. FFS….get a bike or walk, and just live locally. That is a choice that nearly everyone could ultimately make.

  17. In the late 1970s science-fiction writer Frank Herbert became convinced that a vertical-axis wind turbine would be more efficient than the typical propeller-style units.

    Herbert made a prototype, mounted it on the back of a pickup truck, and tested it by driving the truck to and fro (to “create his own wind” more cheaply than building a wind tunnel).

    Nothing lasting ever came of this. I can’t help thinking that people who really understand aerodynamics eliminated the obvious alternative designs many years if not decades ago.

    Right now is a perfect time for opportunists with gimmicky ideas to look for private investors–or government subsidies.

  18. Build ’em all, no matter how weird the theory sounds, so we can move the field forward.

    Nobody has built anything significantly better than a heavy Jacobs with a Sitka prop so far. Piggot and the boys, in the last two decades, have gotten us back to where we left off in the 1930s when the big Jakes were made. Beautiful machines.

    One thing we’ve learned, though, is that heavier is better.


  19. #21 posted by winkybb

    To a degree I agree with you (on the scale side of things). However the technology is always getting better and as more people start adopting the technology costs will decrease.

    As far as your real estate with hydro power argument, that may be true for Hydro power (in some Countries see New Zealand for a good example of where its certainly not true). However there are alternatives. There aren’t exactly many places on the earth where there isn’t any wind, sun, flowing water or available geothermal heat. In fact there’s a lot MORE locations where one or all of these alternatives are much easier than natural gas/coal.

    In regards to your Hybrid car argument that’s just plain silly. Of course people should ride bikes, walk, live local. However there will always be a need for cars so why not make them more efficient!

  20. The lack of friction is a slight efficientcy benefit, but what they are really doing is saving on bearing maintenance.

  21. If the bearing is two “permanent” magnetic discs with same poles facing each other, won’t they eventually de-magnetize themselves?

  22. #11: Tak-kun, I don’t think it’s named per se, but it does look like an evolution on the Darrieus. It’s a lot like the Quietrevolution and Turby.

    What’s even cooler is that it was designed by the guy who invented wind-up radios.

    It was London, with a fair bit of traffic going past, so I’m not wholly sure, but it seemed pretty quiet to me.

  23. I just wanted to point out that Ed Begley, Jr. really does ride public transit in L.A.; I’ve seen him about 3 times just in the last 6 months.

  24. I’ll wait for the MAKE article on how to build your own from recycled soda cans and a dozen neodymium magnets.

  25. The MagLev was simply used to reduce the amount of vibration on the structure which supported the turbine (e.g. the house it’s powering).
    That’s all…nothing more….no grand anti-entropy claims. It’s simply used to reduce vibration on the supporting structure.
    Otherwise, it would be an very annoying generator to have.

  26. There is a Chicago-based company called Aerotecture that makes a pretty cool looking wind turbine that can be installed either vertically or horizontally. A few buildings around the city have these installed. I can’t vouch for how efficient they are.

    Here’s a link to their website: http://www.aerotecture.com/

  27. Roller bearings are actually pretty noisy devices. That’s one reason they aren’t generally used in vehicle engines, apart from some motorcycles.

    As Irsean says, if the turbine was mounted on your house, it would keep you awake at night and drive you nuts.

  28. how about huge matts of nanotech electric current generating fibers quivering in the wind? Must be something like that possible if they already have power textiles. They could be trimmed to look like giant Yorkies and Pekes.

  29. It’s funny how people will make fun of Jay Leno for buying this thing, but I never hear people make fun of his car collection.

    “Oh, that stupid Jay Leno, he buys [old car | wind turbine] that us regular guys can’t afford. He’s a pompous jerk with his [car collection | energy saving device]. If the average person can’t afford it, then it’s a waste of time.”

  30. @ #21 Itsumihi

    New Zealand does indeed generate a lot of per-capita hydro-power (as does BC) – but overwhelmingly through industrial scale projects. They are running out of rivers and water, though.

    You are right that there are plenty of renewable alternatives and that virtually everywhere has renewable energy available in some form. The key to significant and rapid development of these alternatives however, is economic efficiency – and this is achieved with industrial-scale projects, not personal ones. If a million people, instead of investing $10,000 each in solar cells to put on the roof of their house, pooled their money and built a large solar farm with their $10Bn they would have a far greater impact on GHG emissions.

    Where do people who live in high-density housing put their personal solar cell/turbine/geo-thermal heat pump/veggie garden/composting toilet? We can’t all move to our own hippy farm without seriously screwing the planet more than we are already. We can’t all go off-grid and nor should we try. Collective solutions are the key.

    You are right that it isn’t practical for a lot of people to give up their cars – but my point was that many of us can make choices. Reducing environmental impact is rarely achieved by buying manufactured items. Our “need” for mobility is driven by its easy/cheap availability. Why are our family/friends/jobs/shops across town (or across the world)? Because due to “cheap” transport, they can be. It doesn’t have to be like this – but I accept the changing this is hard once that is what you have. It has only been like this for a vanishingly small fraction of human history. Our parents (or grandparents at least) knew plenty of people who never owned cars nor travelled on aeroplanes. We don’t know anybody who doesn’t (approximately).

  31. In re: #34 posted by ian_mxyz , January 7, 2009 1:17 AM

    I’ve never yet disassembled a vehicle engine without encountering roller bearings somewhere along the line. Of course, I’ve only rebuilt 3 completely, and none of them were modern cars, so I can’t claim wide experience.

    As for turbine noise, I don’t think it can possibly compare to the noise one gets from living on a busy street. I’ve lived on suburban streets that were much louder than any windmill I’ve ever heard, and I presume city streets are even worse? You can sleep through anything once you get used to it; look at all the houses lining the railroad tracks.


  32. #5 posted by copyboy1 , January 6, 2009 4:03 PM

    This is a fraud.

    It would really help if you would post details about *which* numbers were off. For an instance, was it projected energy output?? Surely the thing *does* generate electricity? I think they would have a hard time selling something that does not light a light bulb,

    I also agree with an earlier poster’s note that the main advantage of this technology is that it does not transmit vibration to the structure, which can be a *huge* benefit, and will in the end be a more efficient generator (albeit small amounts but it adds up). Even if it’s for the fact that there is no cost in replacing the brushes.

  33. This is a picture of ‘high density housing’ in Carlton right near where I used to live.

    I’ve crudely added some drawings of where wind turbines could go as well as Solar panels.

    I’m not sure about this particular block of flats, however I am 100% sure most of these blocks of flats in Melbourne do in fact have community gardens on their grounds.

    There is absolutely no reason why 95% of new buildings built can’t be fitted with solar panels and or wind turbines.

    If we get creative I’m sure we can think of plenty of other energy generating ideas.

    How about every sky scraper has small hydro generators in all their down pipes? Waters being pumped all the way up there to wash some guys hands, why not get some power back as it travels back to earth?

    If these sorts of small scale projects are adopted rapidly technology and manufacturing costs will decrease making it much more comparable (and easily scalable) as building one large power source for entire cities!

    No hippie farm needed.

  34. You are correct though. Right now more power would be generated at less cost if you had $10,000 from 1,000,000.

    However you have to convince a million people to hand over $10,000 at one time.

    A government rebate on all renewable energy investments would not only incite people to start installing projects when they could afford it, it would also stimulate technology development both in efficiency and cost (if the market demand suddenly increases so will the competition).

    Some other ideas could be.

    Every new lightpole erected could have a solar panel on top (many parks in Melbourne have this already)

    Every new power poll could have a small wind turbine.

    Every gymnasium could have equipment that generates electricity from the resistance in the equipment. (I’m really surprised no one has done this already).

    Every electric train/tram could have a hybrid car style generator on board for when it slows down (thus drawing less power from the cables above).

    Oh and as for the living local thing. I live in Thornbury (about 25 minutes on the train to the city of Melbourne) because that’s where I could afford a house. I work in the City because there’s fuck all IT work in Thornbury (and a lot in the city surprise surprise!). I visit my friends (by Public Transport) in various suburbs because that’s where they live (although these days most are not too far away which is nice).

    We can’t all live local easily just as much as we can’t all move to hippy farms (really like your wording there).

  35. As far as noise in bearings I believe it would be quite an improvement over rollers or tapered rollers. Some of the smaller wind turbines weigh several hundred pounds. Put on a roof where you have a sound board like a guitar it can be very noisy. Kind of like a train coming through your living room when it is rotating at high speed. I have seen some built with babbit bearings like the crank shaft on a car and they are whisper quiet compared to roller types, however they will transmit vibration and should be mounted with rubber isolators in my opinion regardless of what type used if they are going to put on someone’s roof. I would love to try some magnetic bearings. I have thought about that before myself since we have such powerful magnets now with the Neodymium type.

  36. Ed Bagely touted Pac Wind turbines a year or so ago and a lot of people got burned on these turbines which actually fell apart and did not perform! I contacted Ed as well as Jay Leno and neither one had the decency to even apologize!
    Now they are both reccomending this wind turbine…has it been verified to do what it claims? Or have Ed and Jay jumped the gun AGAIN? I still want an apology for the Pac Wind…do either of you have the “class” to do so?

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