Chaska’s Sheerwind tackles global challenge

Does a Chaska firm have the ‘answer’ to wind-energy?
Daryoush Allaei, founder of SheerWind Inc. in Chaska.

The search for renewable, non-polluting energy sources is one of the major, global challenges of the 21st century. One of the places that challenge is being addressed is Chaska Industrial Park, where inventor/entrepreneur Daryoush Allaei and his company, SheerWind, Inc., are working to refine their innovative wind-energy technology. The company opened its doors in July, 2011 in a 6,500 square foot facility in the industrial park at 143 Jonathan Blvd. N. SheerWind uses the facility for product development; the manufacturing function is outsourced to a Wisconsin firm. SheerWind began selling its product in early 2012 and has already extended its marketing efforts to a global market, he says. The target market for SheerWind's systems is commercial and industrial buildings. “That market is wide open,” he says. Solar energy has not been widely adopted by that sector of the marketplace because of relatively high costs and large surfaces needed to convert sunlight into energy. Rather than using blades on top of towers to catch the wind, SheerWind's technology uses a funnel-shaped component to catch the wind, accelerates it by directing it through smaller openings, and feeding it to ground level turbine blades attached to generators. With faster wind-speed, “power generation goes up by a huge factor,” Allaei says. Other benefits are that the system's blades are about 80 percent smaller than in comparable, conventional wind systems, and all maintenance can be performed at ground level, which also reduces costs by more than 50 percent. Another benefit of the Invelox funnel technology is that the towers don't have to be as tall (less than half the height) as those in conventional, wind-power systems, says Allaei, a mechanical engineer who has logged several patents. The intake only has to be taller than the trees and buildings around it to function properly, he says.             The company recently signed an agreement for its first installation with the city of Royalton, in central Minnesota. Later this year, SheerWind will install four of its wind-machines, each with 50 kilowatt capacity. With a number of other sales already on the books, the company should reach the $3.5 million mark in annual revenue this year, Allaei says. The potential of SheerWind's technology has been affirmed by the company's performance in to two competitions for renewable energy companies. SheerWind was the only Minnesota company among the 10 finalists in the 2012 Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago. It was also a finalist at the Clean Tech Open in 2011 and received the Sustainability Award for the North Central Region. A native of Iran, Allaei came to Minnesota in 1991, after earning engineering degrees at Purdue University in Indiana. Allei and his wife, Shohreh, live in Minnetonka near Grey’s Bay. They have two grown children who are college students. Allaei has operated companies in the Chaska Industrial Park since 1999, when he leased space there for his tech company QRDc, Inc., which provides vibration control, noise reduction for various types of machinery and mechanical systems, along with related engineering and consulting services. He has founded or co-founded six companies since 1992. He founded SheerWind to commercialize technology developed by QRDc. Based on his 14 years of operating businesses in Chaska, Allei says he has found the city to be “very pro-business. They've been extremely nice to us, and cooperative,” through the permitting process needed to test its first wind system. Looking ahead, if SheerWind's growth meets his projections, the company will need “a lot more space, particularly for test facilities,” Allaei says. The company has an option to lease more space in its current facility, if and when that becomes necessary.   Chaska City Administrator Matt Podhradsky says city officials are watching the company’s progress with interest, since the city has an interest in developing renewable energy sources. Chaska is one of 10 Minnesota communities that make up the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency. The Minnesota legislature has mandated that electrical utilities in the state will be required to derive at least 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by the year 2025. “We’re always looking for the next renewable energy-source,” Podhradsky says. “We can’t say if this is going to be the one we will use, but we think it’s good that people are working on [the challenge].”