My Wind Generator’s Company Goes Missing

By , July 13, 2013

After removing our wind generator from our tower and replacing it with our old wind generator (see Threat of a Brown Out) I began the process of sending the first unit in for warranty repair.

I had received a return authorization in February, but asked about delaying until we had longer daylight, so that the solar panels could make u more of the power we’d lose while they worked on the generator. The tech told me it would last, and I could wait.

I waited a bit too long, after the summer solstice, but in that time I also got the old generator ready, and, as it turned out, running.

I almost packaged up the the unit to send as soon as possible, but I decided to double check to make sure that the return authorization would still work, or if I’d need a new one. Painful experience with the company in the past has taught me that the customer had best have everything well in order before assuming the company will do anything. This caution saved us.

The old generators up, the newer ones in reserve. I'm not too worried (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The old generators up, the newer one’s in reserve. I’m not too worried (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I tried to email the tech I’d spoken to, the company’s customer service desk, and fill out their on line warranty service application, all without luck. Emails bounced, and clicking send prompted a message that I was forbidden access to that server, and that a 404 “not found” message had been generated! Finally, I called the company. By then, they had closed for the day, so I left a message on their answering machine.

All this occurred on Independance Day week. I assumed they might have the week off, so I waited to resume my efforts till last Monday. I went through the same series of attempts, with the same response, except that this time when I called, I got an automatic message that the number “has not been activated yet.”

Odd!

Finally, I typed “What happened to Southwest Windpower?” in a search engine, and got the news, which you can read here.

The information that the company had abruptly closed its doors did not surprise me much.

You’ll notice that I have named the wind generator company, Southwest Windpower, above. This is the first time I’ve ever done so, despite devoting much time and effort to cataloging my frustration with the company and their product, on this blog and elsewhere.

I planned not to name the company until I’d written to the CEO, Frank Greco, to tell him about my experience. I started a very long litany of my contacts with the company—every component that failed out of the box, every instance of misinformation or lack of even the most basic knowledge of the equipment, each unpleasant encounter with a tech who could barely be bothered to provide a civil, not to say accurate, answer. I hoped to catalog my personal experience, and add a few stories from my neighbors, many of whom use Southwest Windpower generators, and have reported similar problems with the company.

Luckily, I didn’t get far in this before I realized: a man who runs a company that is this neglegent toward its customers will not respond to this sort of letter. Continuing the letter would be a waste of time.

I don’t know Frank Greco or his cohorts, but his recent actions toward his employees, his company, and his customers indicates what sort of man he is. Good riddance, I say.

From what I can tell, they shut down days after my last contact with them, which was to receive the return authorization. If I’d sent my machine in immediately, I would have lost it!

Sadly, these generators are excellent machines. Originally built by World Power Technologies, later bought out and “improved” in dubious ways by Southwest Windpower, they serve well, if properly assembled and maintained. That “if” is where the company fell down. Run by honest, conscientious business people, this would have been a great company, with a very valuable product. Maybe that’s still to come; for now, Southwest Windpower is no more.

In an odd way, I feel a bit liberated. True, it will be tough getting by without the warranty work, which eventually returned a working product one way or another. On the other hand, now that I have no warranty to violate, I’m free to work on these machines as I see fit. They’re fairly simple; I have several generations of manuals and schematics; I have a small arsenal of spare parts; I just proved that I can fix the old unit, the H40, which powers this harrangue. The W100 needs some help wth the furling, but part of the reason I procrastinated was that it worked fairly well most of the time. Now that I have no warranty to violate, I can modify it as I did the H40, and it should work fine. I may have to pack one or the other units to a local metalworker or machine shop if my tools aren’t up to the task, but I think it’s going to be okay. At least I won’t have to pay to ship a 50 pound generator off to Arizona any time I need it worked on!

It’s hard to predict what will happen next, but I’m confident we’ll be able to handle what comes.

9 Responses to “My Wind Generator’s Company Goes Missing”

  1. Jon Marshall says:

    Mark,

    I hope you do not mind but I did some research for you after reading your post and all hope might not be lost. Here is a link.

    http://www.xzeres.com/news/

    Xzeres acquired some of the Southwest Wind power lines/products.

    Hope this helps.

    Jon

  2. Jon Marshall says:

    Oh and Frank Greco is the CEO of Xzeres.

  3. Marcy says:

    We’ll be making the move to our property in Thorne Bay in 5 years. I enjoy reading about your experiences as we’ll also look at using wind/solar for a larger greenhouse.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Jon, thanks for the link. I was pretty enthused, until I saw your addendum that Greco’s the CEO.

    It’s unfair of me to assume that he had a hand in Southwest Windpower’s cut and run. However, he was in charge back when our neighborhood had so many troubles with the company. He was either aware of, and tolerant of/indifferent to the company’s treatment of customers, or he didn’t know it was going on. Neither of these options would earn consumer confidence, in my opinion.

  5. Mark Zeiger says:

    Marcy, Thorne Bay’s beautiful, you’re very lucky to be moving there! Best of luck.

    Mark

  6. Jon Marshall says:

    Mark, I am sorry that you had such a bad experience with him. I am not sure when you started dealing with Southwest Windpower, but he has been CEO of Xzeres since 2010.

    So I don’t know if that’s when all the problems were starting or not after he left SW-Windpower. I just wanted to help out anyway I could so that option was there for you. But you seem to have it handled either way.

    Glad you had fun in Juneau and hope your summer and all the chores getting ready for winter are easy and not to time consuming.

  7. Renee says:

    Reminds me of the time we had a Lifetime Guarantee on some luggage. On a trip, it tore. Just so happened the factory was a few miles away from where we were! Using GPS we tracked it down only to find an empty factory with a dumpster to the side of it full of torn luggage.

  8. Mark Zeiger says:

    Renee, that would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad! I hope you took photos–that’s classic!

  9. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Jon, this message got caught up in the Spam filter. My problems with Southwest Wind Power go back to 2005, before we’d even moved to the “homestead.” Either way, it’s not so much the man, but the company, whatever caused or encouraged its attitude toward customers.

    The chores were moving along, but then my brother and his wife showed up. We’re having way too much fun–dancing to the grasshopper’s fiddle rather than heeding the ant’s imperative!

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