Winds of change: Jordan-based Kohilo developing efficient solutions for sustainable wind energy

2013-08-30T03:15:00Z Winds of change: Jordan-based Kohilo developing efficient solutions for sustainable wind energyGreg Mason | greg.mason@lee.net Auburn Citizen
August 30, 2013 3:15 am  • 

Jordan man Derek Grassman is all about finding the most efficient ways to produce sustainable energy.

His business, Kohilo Wind, is centered around designing technology to harness one of the most consistent forces on the planet and use it as a clean, renewable energy source.

Not that he has anything against other sources of renewable energy, such as solar power. But Grassman said the consistency of the wind is what makes it his choice.

"Wind is the absolute, most continuous source of energy," he said.

A mechanical engineer by trade, Grassman's focus shifted toward sustainable energy after purchasing a farm in Montezuma in 2003. He had previously completed courses at Cayuga Community College and served as a senior engineer at a firm in Syracuse.

Grassman looked into electricity for a power source for his farm, but he said the costs were too high and not economically efficient. He looked elsewhere, eventually coming across wind energy and wind turbines.

After looking into the technology, Grassman said he found a number of flaws with the designs. He decided to look further into those to correct them.

"In a normal situation, it wasn't that easy for a turbine to operate in an urban environment," he said.

Normal turbines generally take anywhere from 14 to 30 years for a return on investment, he said. Their life cycle averages around 20 years, which "might not be a good investment" for consumers, he said.

"I studied wind technology for quite a long time," Grassman said. "It became a passion for me."

Grassman's company officially started in 2008, but recently changed its name from Grassman Performance Energy after a period of restructuring, Grassman said. Kohilo is Hawaiian for "gentle breeze."

Most turbines rely on sustained, uninterrupted wind to produce power, but that's nearly impossible in an urban environment, he said. However, Grassman worked out the technology to make the turbines produce power that do not rely on steady breezes, but instead harness any wind available and utilize it to their fullest potential.

In July, Kohilo Wind was issued an international patent for a design of Grassman's invention.

"Our Kohilo turbines, in most locations, can produce power more than 80 percent of the time," he said.

Kohilo's reach has extended to Destiny USA and Oswego State University, where his turbines were installed around 2009, he said.

One of Kohilo's featured designs is the Mobile Emergency Response Energy System. Designed for disaster situations, MERES is a wind turbine that can function on the go, transforming from a trailer into a wind turbine.

Grassman said Kohilo utilizes both local and out-of-state manufacturers for production purposes. This includes Alpha D.C. Motors, Inc. and AquaCut in Syracuse, Max 200 in Port Byron, Affordable Powder Coating in Cato, and Image Agent, 4M Precision and Sturdy Built in Auburn.

And on the horizon? Anywhere from multimillion dollar mega-turbines to miniature turbines designed to charge handheld devices, Grassman said.

"We are currently taking orders for turbines and plan to add 20 to 500 jobs to the area as we grow," he said.

Grassman said he hopes to have a display featuring the MERES at CNY TomatoFest at Emerson Park in September.

Kohilo's website features a quote from Abraham Lincoln in which the former president, taken from before his administration, lauds the power of wind. Lincoln said wind can be a very potent source of energy should it ever become harnessed.

"I used that quote because it's interesting that all of those years ago, Lincoln had it figured out," he said. "He knew how powerful wind could be if we ever controlled it. And it turns out, he was right."

Staff writer Greg Mason can be reached at (315) 282-2239 or greg.mason@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenMason.

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