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A self-described “tinkerer and inventor” who had trouble finding his place in college is poised to revolutionize the way people capture and convert wind to electricity.
Chris Moore, who devised the technology in his basement in Hershey, has since moved the research and development base of Harmony Turbines to a site near Lebanon Valley Mall in Lebanon. He is pitching his patented turbine technology to investors in hopes of making the units available to consumers within the next two years.
“I’ve been doing clean energy research for probably 25 years,” Moore told LebTown. “I’ve always been a tinkerer. I guess when I got into my mid-20s, I felt there was more I could do, more I could explore.
“I want to make a difference, make people’s lives better.”
But bringing that dream to fruition will take an estimated $2 million in investments. To date, Moore said, he’s raised $404,000 in equity crowdfunding investments from 688 investors on WeFunder.
“We have all of the pieces and components designed,” Moore said. “Now we’re at the expensive part of the process … making expensive prototype parts, things that will need to be revised as bugs are worked out. We can’t do that without further funding.”
If funding were immediately available, he said, “we’d expect to have our first units out to early-adopter customers by the end of 2023.”
But, he stressed, “we’re not in this to be rich and famous. We’re not in this to build a massive wind turbine monolith. … We want to make a difference for our environment and our society — as long as we can remain solvent. I have many other clean energy and sustainability inventions in the works.”
According to an executive summary of the project, Harmony Turbines “is developing next generation residential and small scale wind turbine systems for a better tomorrow! It’s clear that the products currently on the market today are failing to meet the needs of customers, evidenced by the fact that so few small-scale and residential wind turbines are actually in use today.”
The proposal further notes: “Our products are designed around 4 key points, convenience, ease of use, features and cost. Because of these 4 key design points, we firmly believe that Harmony Turbines will become the next global standard in residential and small scale wind power generation. Our units are beautiful, silent in operation and they pose no danger to people or wildlife.”
Moore didn’t have an easy start. He started taking classes at Penn State University in 1990 on a music scholarship, but found the program was turning something he loved into a chore. He switched his major to molecular and cellular biology, but he “hit a brick wall when it came to calculus and physics,” he recalled. Then he changed his major again, this time to computer science — “which I loved, I was getting A’s in all of my classes” — but he ran into that same wall because the program also required calculus and physics credits.
At the same time, he served in the military reserves, working as a medical lab specialist.
He swapped majors several times, Moore said, until finally he was looking for anything that would get him out of college, with a degree in hand, without extending his education beyond four years. So, by nearly doubling his credit load for his last two semesters, he was able to graduate with a degree in psychology.
“I immediately crumpled it up, threw it away and went to work on computers,” Moore said with a laugh. “That’s what I love. That’s my paycheck.”
He hoped his work on the side would eventually attract the attention of a big company that would hire him for research and development. That didn’t happen; in fact, his first patent submission in 1994 ended up going through a crooked company that Moore said robbed him and an investor of $9,000.
“So I took matters into my own hands,” Moore said.
He taught himself the principals of electronics and physics, and he began to dabble with electromagnetics, pulse motors and gravity engines.
A few years ago, he decided to try obtaining a patent, “the right way” this time, and he sorted through an array of “all these crazy inventions, all over the place” that he’d accumulated over the years. He decided to focus on his wind turbine, which he thought had the best chance of finding financial backing and making it to market.
Moore hoped to use the money made with the turbine to fund other projects he’d been juggling.
“It’s not that I want to be a wind turbine czar for the rest of my life,” he said. “I want to make this the genesis of the rest of my work.”
But the advancement in technology, Moore said, is huge.
“Harmony is a smart phone in an era of suitcase phones and bag phones,” he said. “It’s a huge leap forward, a paradigm shift.”
And, he added, “it finally becomes affordable.”
Inspired by ancient patterns
Moore said the Harmony Turbine is “something we desperately need right now. It’s perfect at this time.”
The idea came to him, he explained, while contemplating the yin and yang symbol — an Eastern philosophical concept depicting the two complementary forces comprising all life. He realized the pattern was a more sensible form of wind turbine than the unwieldy, far-reaching designs currently used. And he believes that ancient societies probably used it as such.
“I’m a firm believer that we weren’t the first ones on this planet” to put technology to advanced use, Moore said.
Turning the concept into a workable design wasn’t simple, however.
“It was a long process. I began teaching myself to do CAD work and 3D printing,” he said. He also applied for and received two patents — one for the furling technology that reduces and expands the wind scoops depending on weather conditions at the time, and one for a proprietary generator that converts spinning motion into electricity.
“These two technologies work in concert with one another,” he said.
It doesn’t look much like a windmill, Moore noted. “It’s vertically oriented and it spins like a DNA helix,” he said. “It’s so very different from what people are used to … but it’s ancient technology.
“What we added is the ability to furl up, to close up and protect itself from high winds. It doesn’t hide from the winds, it closes just enough to protect itself,” he added. “Harmony pulls its arms in so it catches less wind. You get to an equilibrium.”
Because of that revolutionary design, he said, Harmony can continue to draw power from high-speed winds that would force other turbines to shut down. “We’re going to keep on producing power — extra power — in full winds. That’s huge.”
On the other hand, he said, his turbine can start spinning in 1 to 2 mph winds, while most standard turbines don’t start spinning until wind speeds hit 5 or 6 mph. “So we’re already capturing power before they start to spin,” he said.
Targeting home and boat owners
The Harmony Turbine is not designed to compete with the massive turbines that dot the landscape; Moore said these units are sized for residential use, with the spinning section of each unit just 4 feet by 4 feet.
It could be mounted on a rooftop, he said, or on a concrete pad in a backyard.
“You want it high enough that it’s not whacking anyone in the head as it spins, so you want it at least 8 feet off the ground,” Moore noted.
It’s also useful for boating, he said.
“There are almost always high winds out at sea,” he explained. “You’ve got tons and tons of readily available high winds. You already have battery banks — you can just plug and play to put one of our units onboard.”
But contemporary turbines can’t withstand the kinds of storms we’ve been seeing in recent years, he said. The Harmony can — “not wasting this resource, but using it.”
Despite the Harmony’s advancements, Moore said people probably won’t see them popping up too often in places like Lebanon County, which is not known for its gusty winds. Rather, he said, Harmony will make a lot more sense on hills and coastlines.
“This isn’t magic. It’s not going to give you free energy,” he said. But, according to his company’s projections, a customer who uses the Harmony in an area with “good strong winds” should see the price of the unit paid off in seven years. That’s assuming a cost per unit of $2,500, according to Moore’s executive summary describing the project.
Zoning laws will probably have to be amended in some areas to allow the turbines, Moore noted, since existing codes were written with “clunky units that have to be installed up on 80-foot gantries” in mind.
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