Catch the Wind sees big lift from wind farm market

Thu May 13, 2010 12:42pm EDT
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By Susan Taylor

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Tiny Catch the Wind Ltd is bracing for big business from technology that helps wind farms harness more power, but dreams of billion-dollar sales are not turning to reality yet.

"This is an industry that requires very high reliability because you, as a consumer, don't want your lights to go off," Chief Executive Phil Rogers said in an interview. "We're in a show-me stage."

Virginia-based Catch the Wind has developed what it says is a revolutionary fiber optic laser system that senses and calculates changes in wind speed and direction at least 300 meters before airflow reaches a wind farm's turbine.

The company says its $150,000 Vindicator sensor can boost energy output by about 10 percent, and also cut maintenance costs and extend the life of a turbine by several years.

If it sells the sensor for just 10 percent of the 110,500 turbines currently in operation, that works out to $1.6 billion in revenue, the company said.

The dream has made Catch the Wind one of the stars of the TSX Venture Exchange. Its stock, launched in an initial public offering in 2008, surged more than 400 percent last year and its last equity offering, in April, raised C$5.15 million ($5.09 million) from shares priced at C$2.

The stock price has since slipped back to C$1.68, including a slide of 13 Canadian cents on Thursday after the company reported a quarterly loss of $3.2 million.

Jacob Securities analyst Khurram Malik said the Vindicator is the first forward-looking measurement device to enter the market, with no likely competition for two to three years.   Continued...