The wind power industry paused recently to mourn the loss of Elliott Bayly, the pioneering small wind technology innovator and entrepreneur, who died January 20.
Constantly on the go with startups and technology innovations, Bayly was founder and president of Duluth, Minn.-based Ventera Energy Corp., which builds small wind turbines. The inventor, electrical engineer and one-time professor, who began building wind turbines at the dawn of the modern turbine era in 1974, was surprised in 1999 to see turbine sales at his company at the time, World Power Technologies, take off as the nation prepared during the run-up to “Y2K” (i.e., the advent of the new century) for potential computer-related power failures. Prior to that, sales of the new technology had largely been to overseas customers.
“Elliott was one of the truly creative small wind turbine pioneers, constantly coming up with new ideas and product designs, often challenging conventional thinking,” said long-time industry advocate Larry Flowers, now AWEA’s deputy director for distributed and community wind. “Never one to ride a particular design into the promised land of prosperity, such as it is in the small wind industry, but always engineering an improved model through innovation. We all have benefitted from Elliott's genius and perseverance.”
To anyone who knew him, Bayly was a true innovator, even to the level of being a tinkerer. As one legendary story has it, he took an old 1930s turbine, finding it sitting out of use next to a farmhouse, and literally made history with it. Refabricating the machine, he built what has been called the nation’s first wind-powered radio station, located on Stagecoach Mountain near Oak Creek, Colo. The cost of the machine: $2,000.
“Elliot was a true pioneer of modern wind technology,” said Dan Juhl, chairman and CEO of Juhl Wind. “His genius, spirit and wit will be dearly missed.”
Just one small—and more recent—illustration of Bayly’s pioneering and adventuresome ways: it was only last year that he fulfilled one of his long-time dreams, taking a motor trip with a friend along old Route 66 in a vintage 1940s Packard.