The way Imad Mahawili sees it, Napa County has it all: wine, sunny weather, and wind.
Wind is a big deal in Mahawili’s life, the co-founder of WindTronics LLC, a company that has begun to sell small wind turbines for residential and commercial buildings. It also happens to be a mainstay in American Canyon.
This summer, Mahawili relocated WindTronics’ research and development unit from Michigan to American Canyon, where he and other engineers continue to research and develop new turbines that can be installed on roofs and cell towers. The center on Dodd Court also serves as a training center for installers and scientists.
The company’s current product is a 6-foot tall turbine that can generate enough electricity to save up to 20 percent of power an average American household, Mahawili said. The 180-pound turbines, built in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, are licensed through Honeywell International Inc., though WindTronics, remains a private company.
Unlike other turbines, WindTronics’ spins with no gear, thus reducing mechanical resistance, Mahawili said. Power is generated at the tips of the nylon blades that are built inside an oversized bicycle rim. The machine is connected to a computerized smart box that converts 12 volts of energy to 110 volts; two batteries capture the power produced as the blade spin.
“It’s an inside-out turbine,” said Mahawili, co-founder and chief technological officer for WindTronics. He hopes his invention will take root in developing countries because his turbine requires no costly infrastructure.
The company’s research and development division moved into 5,000 square feet in American Canyon after Mahawili and his wife, Michele, relocated to Napa, partly to be closer to Michele’s relatives and partly to enjoy California’s weather. They did so after their youngest child left home to attend college.
Reg Adams, the company’s CEO and co-founder, remains at the company’s headquarters in Muskegon, Mich., while the production moved to Windsor, Mahawili said. The company opened its production in Ontario after the province reportedly gave it a $2.7 million grant.
Mahawili is the former director of Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon, a group affiliated with Grand Valley State University that develops alternative energy applications. It has developed several prototypes of residential turbines before designed the WT6500 Honeywell Wind Turbine.
So far, the company, which has installed turbines in several US cities, including Dallas, Muskegon and Minneapolis, wants to expand its market overseas, particularly in India, China, Poland, England and Germany.
Among those who have stopped by is Rich Ramirez, the city manager of American Canyon.
In an e-mail Friday, Ramirez said the American Canyon City Council is interested in showcasing WindTronics’ innovative technology. The city supports the research and development center, given the potential of the green economy, he said, noting that customers, scientists and visitors will stay at local hotels while they visit WindTronics. In addition, the company could boost the city as a green technology center and bring other firms and national recognition, local officials said.
“Given the upside potential from the green economy, having a Green Technology R and D center based in has many positives,” he said.