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Wind power question

Post in 'The Green Room' started by SE Iowa, Feb 23, 2009.

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  1. SE Iowa

    SE Iowa New Member

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    They currently have started construction on those giant wind farms within 1 mile of my house. It's not common to have these in my part of the state but I guess they did a study and found a pocket of sustainable high winds. Anyway, I was wondering, they did not buy the wind rights over my farm but I will be within 1 mile of the first tower. I was thinking about putting a small wind turbine up on the high ridge running thru my farm (house is located on this ridge too). My question relates to the high cost of these small wind turbines. Not being an engineer, I do not understand why they are so expensive. Has generator technology advanced so much that they are using some sort of space age conductors or something? I'm not trying to be rude but $20,000 for a system big enough for 1 house?? Anybody with a wind turbine out there?

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  2. Jim K in PA

    Jim K in PA Minister of Fire

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    It depends on how much power you want to make. I do not have a wind generator yet, but I will be building a couple of small vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs) to harness a few watts of power. The cost of the tower and anchor system can be as much as the generator and blades. You can build a smaller unit yourself that won't supply a household, but can certainly supplement your electric use. I certainly will not depend on a single source for alternative electrical generation. Spread your investment over wind, Pico-hydro (if you have water) and PV. And KEEP your grid connection for times when none of the others is adequate. Just my humble opinion.
  3. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    They have not evolved all that much. More reliable and durable, yes. Otherwise, no. Small-scale wind power is pricey are usually not worth the installation cost unless you've already got most of the electronics in place for solar - or can get a big state incentive. Wind is sort of an "all or nothing" type deal. You really need a grid-tie setup so you can make use of all the power when the wind is really blowing. And even with that, a minimum of a 48 VDC setup is gives the best efficiency, not thge 12 or 24 VDC units. Without grid-tie, there's no good way to store the power, and it's rare when you can use it all, as it's being made during high winds.

    Now, if you have a camp, small cabin, etc. with few appliances and a battery bank - a few solar panels, wind generator, and a battery bank can work out nicely. Wind often blows when the sun is not shining, so both sources work well with a battery bank. But, even then - if your batteries are fully charged and the wind starts blowing - all that power goes to waste. Thus the need for grid-tie and selling back to the power company. Also, a huge added expense.
  4. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

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    from everything I have been able to read (mostly on the forestry forum aternative methods page) wind in most places is an investment that won't pay off, the equipment will wear out before you make the return. However if there is a tax break etc. you might do ok as whoever put up the wind farm did a study (you would think anyway) and found a good spot. I think for the money solar heat is the best investment.
    Feeding power back into the grid is expensive and depending on your state laws they may buy it from you at the wholesale rate and sell it to you at the consumer rate so you don't really win.
  5. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    Unless you are a hobbyist that likes working on equipment and has the skills to do it, wind turbines are a tough way to generate power. The entire system has a steep learning curve. The majority of the installations tend to be abandoned within a few years of being installed. Vermont has a fair share of dead ones littering the landscape. The big hassle is the equipment needs to be maintained on a minimum of a yearly basis and its on top of a tall pole. If you arent willing or able to climb the tower (or drop it if its a tilt up) then its going to stop working at some point, usually by shedding parts. Figure in a few major replacements of components for inevitable lightning strikes and probably an early round of battery failures until you learn how important equalizing batteries on a frequent basis is and you will eventually have a working system. If you go with a grid tie, you can cut down on the learning curve, but lose the ability to operate it isolated. The cost of the actual turbine is a small percentage of the total system cost.

    The up side is if you have the right wind resource (which you probably have in Iowa) and the right site, wind is a good way to generate power as it tends to generate the best when solar isnt. The rule of thumb is that the bottom of your turbine blade should be a minimum of 30' above the highest point for a 500' radius.

    The state of Vermont is currently kicking off a project to supply WiFi and Internet service to rural areas and their plan is to install a lot of low power transmitter sites with wind power, they have signed a deal with Earth Turbines and once its in place they will probably have a standard design that is robust enough to hold up to nasty weather and conditions. If you hold off and let them be the guinea pigs for a couple of years, they may come up with a good solution.

    A good resource is HomePower magazine. You can pick up a CD of back issues for around $100 and there are quite a few articles about small scale wind. Keep in mind the articles are mostly about succesful installations, but on occasion there are a few sidebars about "crash and burns".

    Heck if you have $250,000 spare, my former employer, Northern Power makes a real nice 100 KW direct drive unit that was designed for weather conditions in Alaska (they have several in service up there to supply native villages in place of diesel). Enclosed tower and enclosed nacelle with no gearbox so its easy to maintain and should last a long time.
  6. SE Iowa

    SE Iowa New Member

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    Just $250,000?? Well then I'll take two. Thanks for the info. Just trying to look at alternatives and this seemed possible since they are erecting one of those wind farms literally next door. As far as solar heat generation, I doubt that will save me much. We have instantaneous DHW heaters on NG and literally only cost $5-10 per month for our whole house which also includes our gas cooktop. Our total NG consumption for an entire year (heat, dhw, cooktop) was $1100 including fees which is unheard of in our cold and windy climate. We are thankful for that. Our electric bill was something just over $1200 for the entire year which includes fees. I know it doesn't sound like it is that bad but I just like to be as independant as possible, you never know. We raise eggs and chickens as well as some vegatables, but now I'm off topic. We are starting to see some small medium sized wind turbines go up on some farms. One guy west of me about 10 miles uses them to provide electricity for his hog sheds. It was a used system but I think it cost around $50,000. But If I could write it off as a business expense it would make it more appealing.
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