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Power Science

Home Wind-Power Turbines Make Headway 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-answer-is-blowing-in-the-wind dept.
Pickens writes "Wind turbines, once used primarily for farms and rural houses far from electrical service, are becoming more common in heavily populated residential areas as homeowners are attracted to ease of use, financial incentives and low environmental effects. Experts on renewable energy say a convergence of factors, political, technical and ecological, is causing a surge in the use of residential wind turbines, especially in the Northeast and California. "Back in the early days, off-grid electrical generation was pursued mostly by hippies and rednecks, usually in isolated, rural areas," said Joe Schwartz, editor of Home Power magazine. "Now, it's a lot more mainstream." Some of the new "plug and play" systems can be plugged directly into a circuit in the home electrical panel and homeowners can use energy from the wind turbine or the power company without taking action. Schwartz says that even with the economic benefits, it can take 20 years to pay back the installation cost. "This isn't about people putting turbines in to lower their electric bills as much as it is about people voting with their dollars to help the environment in some small way," he said."
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Home Wind-Power Turbines Make Headway

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  • Re:How green is it? (Score:4, Informative)

    by eric76 (679787) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:43PM (#23098908)
    Another way to be more environmentally friendly would be to use adobe or compressed earth building techniques.

    In this area, we get about the same amount of yearly rainfall as in places like Santa Fe, New Mexico where the use of adobe is very common. I think it would do quite well.

    For cooling, swamp coolers work quite well for us.
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:14PM (#23099174) Journal
    1) it's a state by state rule. Not all states are doing it.
    2) there are provisions such that the buyback is reduced if more people take advantage of it
    3) they don't pay you. They simply credit you for the appropriate amount of kWh. If you're below zero at the end of the month, they still don't pay you, and your bill won't actually be zero.
  • Re:How green is it? (Score:5, Informative)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:36PM (#23099372)

    Plus you get free poultry delivered to your backyard.
    And that is not true. I recall a research being done by green groups in The Netherlands, where we have large wind parks in the northern part, mostly on the seashore of course. The idea was that those huge fast moving blades must be killing scores of birds.

    They found that is not the case. Birds hardly get killed by turbines - accidents happen of course, but are rare.

    The researchers thought that this is because of the noise those turbines make, even upwind this is audible to the birds at sufficient distance. So they just fly around them. The mortality was as low or lower than around power lines: those also kill birds that happen to fly into them.

    This result actually surprised the researchers, in a happy way of course. And the research being done by a.o. animal protection groups gives it quite some credit to me.

  • Re:Buying One Myself (Score:4, Informative)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:03PM (#23099590)
    Farms have been using wind power for centuries. If you have a bungalow at the sea side with permanent wind, then a simple DIY setup made from a 24V, 24 inch cooling fan for a stationery motor mounted on a post, can easily charge a 12V battery through a single diode to run lights and a small TV and the cost is really minimal if you keep it simple. My father did that for many years, till the grid finally caught up. (You need a diode, else you have a big cooling fan, instead of a charger...) If you are a geek with serious electricity needs, then you may need two or three of those, but that will still be cheaper than buying a single larger commercial unit.
  • Re:How green is it? (Score:3, Informative)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:20PM (#23099710)
    If you want to get started simply, buy a 24 inch, 24 Volt cooling fan for a stationery motor (something like a caterpillar diesel). Add a large diode, mount it on a tall wooden pole with a wire coming down loosely with an in-line plug (so you can unwrap the cable every few weeks), run it to a 12V battery and you have yourself a simple 12 DC system for a cost of $150 (new) or so.

    This type of simple systems are common for powering seaside holiday bungalows.
  • Re:How green is it? (Score:4, Informative)

    by fredklein (532096) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:49PM (#23099914)
    It's not "300-400", but...

    "The BWC EXCEL (http://www.bergey.com/) is a modern 6.7 meter (22 ft) diameter, 10,000W wind turbine designed for high reliability, low maintenance, and automatic operation in adverse weather conditions"
    "Prices, which include a voltage regulator, pump controller, or a line-commutated inverter, range from $21,900 to $27,900."
    "The BWC EXCEL is most often installed on a guyed lattice tower, which is available in heights of 18 m (60 ft.) to 43 m (140 ft.). Prices range from $7,400 to $12,680. "

    SO, *worst case scenario* is 27,900 + 12,680 = $40,580.

    Now, Electricity is what, about 10 cents per kilowatt hour? So $40,580 will buy 405,800 kwh of electricity.

    In the last 2 months, I used a total of 946 kwhs for my small 2br apartment. Let's say a house'll use twice that, or about 1000kwh per month.

    It'll take 405 months (33 years) for the system to pay for itself.

    Of course, Your electric bill is more than just 'kwh x price per kwh'. Heck, I pay more in "Power Supply Charges" than I do in "delivery and System charges". All in all, I pay 19.39 cents per kwh. That means $40,580 will buy 209,499 kwh of electricity, and the system pays for itself in 210 months, or 17.5 years.

    Of course, that doesn't take into account any future electricity price increases. It also doesn't take into account how, with the right system, you can keep up and running indefinitely the next time there is a grid blackout or winter storm that knocks out the power.
  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:53PM (#23099934)
    Euhm, you are almost totally wrong. Sorry to say it so, but it's the case.

    Nuclear is great indeed for a base load: but that's it, base load. It can not easily be switched on or off like a coal or gas fired plant, which can change load in a matter of minutes.

    Your idea of using some power dump is nice, but electrical vehicles are not the place. How are you ever going to switch on and off their charging for a start? When the wind falls, these chargers should be switched off. That requires some sophisticated communications, and is quite error prone. And how are you going to get to work after a windless night, or a gusty night where your charger is switched on and off but mostly off?

    Power dumps could be cold storage warehouses, as discussed on Slashdot a few years ago (sorry, no link). Other power dumps, used already in e.g. France which is over-reliant on nuclear, could be pumping up water to the top of a hill during the night, and let it run down during the day when necessary.

    Wind power is unstable, and we have to live with that. As nuclear is only a base load, wind may be used during the night to power the cold storage warehouses, which don't mind having no power for an hour or so. But during the day you will need back-up from conventional sources, just to maintain reliability. So far we haven't found a sufficiently reliable renewable energy source do do it otherwise.

    On top of that power dumps are nice but also have limited capacity, both in absorption and release of energy on demand. They can cover fluctuations measured in time spans of minutes to hours maybe - not the longer term fluctuations such as a windless week.

  • by fredklein (532096) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:59PM (#23099978)
    Not always true. There are two types of 'buy back'- One (netmetering) uses one meter that can go in both directions. If you are using more than you are producing, the meter goes forward. If you are producing more, it winds Backward. If it ends up at at a higher number at the end of the period (month/quarter/year), you pay for the net amount you used. If it ends up at at a lower number, you do NOT get paid for the extra you gave them.

    The other way is to have 2 meters- one for what you use, and one for what you sell to them. Even though they only pay wholesale rates, it would be possible to sell them more than you use, and actually make money.
  • Re:How green is it? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @12:04AM (#23100016) Homepage
    While payback period may be the easiest measure to calculate, it's not a very good one. You really need to be calculating either IRR or mortgage length if you want to determine whether something is a good investment. They're different ways to measure the same thing. Basically, when you install something like a wind turbine or solar setup, you're buying an annuity. You need to show that that annuity is a better investment than other comparable investments on the open market.
  • Re:How green is it? (Score:5, Informative)

    by fredklein (532096) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @12:10AM (#23100060)
    Replying to myself to say:

    if the above system seems a bit costly, try this:

    $2,590 1 kW XL.1 Turbine, with PowerCenter
    $1,595 60 ft. Tilt-up Tower
    $450 .. 5.3 kWh Battery Bank (B220-4)
    $1,044 1,500 W Inverter System

    $5,679 Total Cost

    $5679 = 29318 kwh, which is 30 months payback.

    /of course 1000 watts is a little low for most people...

  • by fredklein (532096) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @12:38AM (#23100266)
    No, I did not factor in the amount of power produced. (I assumed it would be adequate.)

      What I calculated was how long it would take (at your current electric payments) to pay off the windpower equipment.

    Actually, if you look, I assumed a house would use 1,000,000wh (1000kwh) per month. A 10,000w system could make this in 100 hours, or about 4 days. Of course, it won't be running at full power, but even at 1/4 power, it only needs 16 days to make all the power you need in a month.

    /Or I royally screwed up the math. :-)
  • Re:Buying One Myself (Score:4, Informative)

    by evanbd (210358) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @12:41AM (#23100280)
    I highly recommend some sort of battery charge controller. I happen to have used and like the MorningStar SunSaver models, but there are a wide variety out there. At $50 or so, they're not that expensive, and they'll make your battery last a lot longer, especially if you deep cycle it and let it charge completely often. A simple diode will work, but it will overcharge the battery and shorten its lifespan. Longer battery life will easily pay for the charge controller for most usage patterns.
  • Re:How green is it? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Thursday April 17, 2008 @03:28AM (#23101192) Homepage Journal

    /of course 1000 watts is a little low for most people...

    Indeed. But you don't need to cut yourself off from the gird; and, indeed, in Europe at least, when you have an excess (which you sometimes will) you can sell electricity back to the grid at a preferential price.

  • by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Thursday April 17, 2008 @03:39AM (#23101260) Homepage Journal

    Not always true. There are two types of 'buy back'- One (netmetering) uses one meter that can go in both directions. If you are using more than you are producing, the meter goes forward. If you are producing more, it winds Backward. If it ends up at at a higher number at the end of the period (month/quarter/year), you pay for the net amount you used. If it ends up at at a lower number, you do NOT get paid for the extra you gave them. The other way is to have 2 meters- one for what you use, and one for what you sell to them. Even though they only pay wholesale rates, it would be possible to sell them more than you use, and actually make money.

    Whereas in Germany, and in some other European countries, they have to pay (quite a bit) you more for every KW/h you sell them than for the ones they sell you.

    Actually if you have running water on your land a pelton wheel [wikipedia.org] will typically give you more reliable and cheaper power than a wind turbine.

  • Re:How green is it? (Score:2, Informative)

    by phaggood (690955) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @05:57AM (#23101808) Homepage
    > fast moving blades

    Well, not all windpower generators take their design from 300yr old Dutch models; some companies [metaefficient.com] remember we're in the 21st century. On their website there's a picture of their system on a low-rise apartment building; it's so invisible it could placate the most rabid NIMBY-ite.

    > free poultry

    Some companies [avinc.com] are even putting grates in front of their blades. I do find it amusing when people become so concerned about the fauna when you talk about renewables when they never care about the small animals taken out by transformer stations unless said animal 'terrorist' kills himself as a blow against human imperialism against his species.
  • Re:How green is it? (Score:3, Informative)

    by mpathetiq (726625) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @09:28AM (#23103292) Homepage
    I live in and work for a city with four 1.8 megawatt turbines and can support that research with anecdotal evidence. The utilities director has informed me that the only things our turbines have killed are bats. The assumption is that the blades screw up the bats' echolocation. Even then, the numbers of bats that have been found are very minimal.

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