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

    by Overzeetop (214511)

    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
    Because the energy embodied in all those manufactured items is less than the equivalent high-efficiency central generation plant, or because you get the one-up the Joneses in their Prius? Never trust the words of someone who is looking to sell you something.
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:38PM (#23098866) Homepage
      There's probably a lot of other things you could do with the same money, like put in a ground-loop heating/cooling system. Of course, it wouldn't be as showy, and none of the neighbors would know you had it, so it's not the best way to show off how eco friendly you are, but would probably benefit you quite a bit more.
      • Re:How green is it? (Score:4, Informative)

        by eric76 (679787) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:43PM (#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.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by naveenoid (1183365)
          Makes sense. Surely Adobe knows how to deal with "Flash"-Floods ;)
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          You can add a wind-power turbine to your dwelling. Changing it to Adobe, rammed earth, straw bale, cob, or one of the other dozen or so energy-efficient building materials involves knocking it down and starting over.

          I can use a swamp cooler for cooling most of the year, but if it's rained recently it does fuck-all. So in the spring when the temp is flipping up and down, It's A/C time.

          The single best thing you can do is simply orient your house properly and build proper overhangs. It's called Solar Situati

      • by LWATCDR (28044)
        Using a heat recovery system on your AC, turning off lights, car pooling, there are lots of things you can do to cut down on power that cost less and are very effective.
        Of course then adding a windmill and or solar after that would be great.
        What I really want is for the off switch to be the off switch.
        I have to wonder just how much power is being wasted on monitors, TV, DVD players, wireless phones, PS3s, Wiis, 360s....
        You get the idea.
    • Re:How green is it? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Skynyrd (25155) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:57PM (#23099052) Homepage
      I am involved with a group of people building windmills. It has nothing to do with buying things. It has nothing to do with keeping up with the neighbors. None of us drive Priuses (most of think they are a scam unless you live in a super-densely populated place).

      We're buying used motors on eBay. Some of us are making our own blades from fiberglass (and some are buying them).

      We have created an open source hardware project that makes power. It'll cost me $300 - $400 to make something I think is cool, will pay for itself over time, help reduce my footprint on the planet in an almost measurable way and let me do something creative.

      You got a problem with that?
      • no, but could you tell me where I can get plans for this $300-400 system and how much power it is capable of producing? Thanks!
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by flyingfsck (986395)
          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 @10:49PM (#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.
          • Re:How green is it? (Score:4, Informative)

            by Rei (128717) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:04PM (#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 Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:10PM (#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...

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Simon Brooke (45012)

              /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.

          • Except that your payoff time calcs are assuming that your windmill is generating 100% power every hour (34 hours per day?) all day, every day of the year. The wind doesn't just work that hard...
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by fredklein (532096)
              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 scre
              • by Somegeek (624100)

                /Or I royally screwed up the math. :-)
                No, you got it right. Thanks for the explanation. I was counting hours/month, and well, nevermind. I'm going away now.
            • by westlake (615356)
              Except that your payoff time calcs are assuming that your windmill is generating 100% power every hour , every day of the year.

              The numbers also assume that the mill will not need repair or replacement. That it will last the twenty or thirty years the manufacturer claims. Environments where wind power is feasible are not always the most predictable and benign.

          • by skelly33 (891182)
            ... 10 cents per kilowatt hour? So $40,580 will buy 405,800 kwh of electricity. (...) 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...

            This doesn't add up; given your sample house at 1000KWh per month usage rate and that a 30-day month has 720 hours in it, generating 10KW over 720 hours yields 7,200KWh for the month - that's seven houses, not one. You weren't planning on just throwing away that extra 6,200KWh for the mont
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by willy_me (212994)
          Try going here [otherpower.com].
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Overzeetop (214511)
        Not at all, as long as I don't have to look at it. These systems, imho, are trying to capitalize on the "green" craze and with a 20 year payback (probably without TVM or maintenance figured in) just don't pass muster. I'm with you on the the fun, cheap stuff. Reusing old parts is excellent (remember - reduce, reuse, recycle...in that order), and likely far greener than new turbines even if less efficient.

        Then again, maybe I'm just jealous because my house sits on the leeward side of a ridge, so I get very
        • ...they still have a justified market: In the genuinely off-grid areas where there is no power line access.

          Of course these days, the people who A) want to show off, or B) don't mind spending to help the environment (or both) probably represent a large and growing market.

          And while its true that the money could be "better" spent on a green electric plan from the utility, you still have to trust the utility to generate the amount of windpower they claim. I can imagine living in areas of the USA where I'd prefe
          • Does it make a difference about your green spending if it turns out that the turbine, equipment, and maintenance uses more energy to produce (and may not be done with renewable resources) than you can extract during its useful life? Then you're just trading "bad" energy to produce your windmill now so that you can get "good" energy over the next 20 years. The windmill becomes a battery rather than a generator.

            In the case of these turbines, my guess is that - depending on how you do the math - they are batt
            • by Burz (138833)

              Does it make a difference about your green spending if it turns out that the turbine, equipment, and maintenance uses more energy to produce (and may not be done with renewable resources) than you can extract during its useful life? Then you're just trading "bad" energy to produce your windmill now so that you can get "good" energy over the next 20 years. The windmill becomes a battery rather than a generator.

              Spending a large chunk of one's income on a small turbine that cannot reasonably pay for itself isn't in itself an ecological deficit. But the fact that it takes so long or can't break even monitarily should prompt a shopper to investigate the turbine's energy balance. The thing is that the energy market is so out of whack with being unable to represent environmental costs that there are numerous high-priced energy mechanisms which do in fact have a net ecological benefit despite being a money sink.

              This is

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        We have created an open source hardware project that makes power. It'll cost me $300 - $400 to make something I think is cool, will pay for itself over time, help reduce my footprint on the planet in an almost measurable way and let me do something creative.

        You got a problem with that?

        Yeah, I do. Because "building a cheap windmill" != "reducing your footprint", especially if you are making your blades out of materials that are energy intensive to produce (fiberglass), which also produces toxic was

      • None of us drive Priuses (most of think they are a scam unless you live in a super-densely populated place).

        Define "scam". My Prius has gotten 49.6 mpg over its lifetime (as measured by fuel put in; the on-board computer tracks pretty closely), and I don't live in a "super-densely populated place". Also, the PZEV emissions profile isn't strictly tied to population density.

        I'm not saying the Prius is for everyone, but "scam" seems a little harsh.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by OhPlz (168413)
          Same here. I'm usually hovering between 48 and 50 mpg with mine. I live in NH, we don't have super densely populated anything. I love the vehicle, but I'm not terribly fond of the people that go to great lengths to explain how it's "wrong". It's a car. It gets ~50 mpg if you don't drive it like you stole it. Learn to cope.

      • by Damvan (824570)
        "You got a problem with that?"

        Of course people will have a problem with that! This is slashdot, where any green technology that has more than a 12 month payback is immediately shot down as stupid, wasteful, more destructive to the environment, and only installed to one up the neighbors.
        • by Skynyrd (25155)
          Of course people will have a problem with that! This is slashdot, where any green technology that has more than a 12 month payback is immediately shot down as stupid, wasteful, more destructive to the environment, and only installed to one up the neighbors.

          I've been here a long time, but I still forgot that. I'm somewhat surprised by the negative comments.
    • Re:How green is it? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by flaming error (1041742) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:23PM (#23099248) Journal
      It sounds like you are saying that:

        1) A wind turbine won't generate enough electricity over its lifetime
              to offset grid usage and the manufacture of itself

      That could be true in some situations. Depends on the turbine and the location. When pursuing sustainable energy, it's vital to pick the sort of generator that best fits the local environment. Sometimes that's not wind. Sometimes it is.

        2) Wind turbine purchases are just conspicuous consumption of a green flavor

      Showing off may be the motive for some people, but all the turbine owners I know sincerely are trying to live sustainably (and are often entertained by the logical contortions HEMI fanboys utilize to claim green equality/superiority).

        3) Wind turbine owners are suckered by slick salesmen

      The owners I know did extensive research, and almost all of them built their own from kits or scratch.

      So you can definitely do wind wrong and lose on carbon. You can also do it right. And there are many benefits to wind power. Even if your electricity is more expensive than the grid's, some people are willing to pay more for what they consider a higher quality product. Fossil-fuel electricity can't stay artificially cheap forever. Distributed generation can be more robust than centralized plants (like TCP/IP).

      Plus you get free poultry delivered to your backyard.
      • Re:How green is it? (Score:5, Informative)

        by wvmarle (1070040) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:36PM (#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: (Score:2, Informative)

          by phaggood (690955)
          > 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 c
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mpathetiq (726625)
          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.
  • Wind Turbines (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eric76 (679787) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:40PM (#23098888)
    I've been wanting to do this on the family farm for years. My concern is not really about reducing power usage as it is about having power during the power failures that are not all that uncommon.

    There is also a big push to put the big corporate wind turbines on the local farms. Those could easily make the difference between making a profit or losing money on a farming operation.

    I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning at a local wind turbine construction site where they are putting up approximately 75 turbines this year. The owner of the land said he had been working for seven years just to get to the point where they are putting them in.
    • by steelfood (895457)
      Farms are a smart place to put wind turbines. There's a lot of land on a farm, and very little to impede the wind. The cost of putting up a turbine is on the low side while the return is quite high. A suburban home, however, is a little different, which is what TFA is about. The density of such areas means both that there'd be a lot of surrounding objects that could potentially cause impedance, and that the cost of putting up any practical wind turbine would be quite high.

      I mean, I guess you could power a f
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by flyingfsck (986395)
        Household chargers can gen up to a kilowatt, if the mast is a few meters above the top of the roof
    • by westlake (615356)
      My concern is not really about reducing power usage as it is about having power during the power failures that are not all that uncommon.

      The first question that comes to mind is "what is causing all those power failures?"

      Locally, the answer would be "gale force winds."

      The second question I would ask - having lived on a family farm - founded ca. 1820 - is whether that DIY windmill can carry the load. Tractor-Driven Generators: Producing Quality Power [gov.on.ca]

    • by dkleinsc (563838)
      Depending on the kind of farm, one of the other power generation options out there is based off of collecting the methane from manure composting. A number of dairy farmers are already doing this and selling the surplus power.

      Obviously, this only works if your farming operation produces a lot of manure, but most farms that involve animals in some way do just that.
  • If you're not from the US, you should know that we have a federal law here that if someone else adds electricity to the grid, they have to get paid by the power company per killowatt-hour. So you pay what like a thousand for a decent wind turbine and feed power back into the grid and it pays for itself over time and makes you a lot of money in the long run. It's a great investment. So combine the fact that almost everyone is worried about global warming and wants to do something about it with the fact th
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Could the grid handle everyone pumping electricity back into the grid, especially with such a technology as wind, where the amount of power generated tends to be "bursty". Could this backfire a large percentage (> 25%) of homes started doing this?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zippthorne (748122)
        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.
        • by fredklein (532096) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:59PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Simon Brooke (45012)

            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.

            • by julesh (229690)
              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.

              Hmmm...

              1. Acquire two neighbouring houses
              2. Use one house's supply to provide power back to the grid via the other
              3. PROFIT!!!

              (Not even a "..." in this one!)
              • 1.5 figure out a way to induce a current between two equal potentials.
                • by j-beda (85386)
                  1.5 figure out a way to induce a current between two equal potentials.

                  A transformer to get 12V out of the "supply" house and then an inverter to pump it into the "sink" house should work.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Soldarith (1274714)
            Correct.

            Also important to note, here in the US, is that many states (such as PA) have laws that require electric companies to comply with residential renewable energy metering (aka "backward metering"). This backward metering comes at NO cost to the residential owner to ensure that the meters on their home are capable of accurately recording power sent back on-grid. There are also laws in place that state the electric company must pay the residential owner for the power they generate back to the grid (by su
            • by Damvan (824570)
              I have a 3.2 kw net metered PV system on my house. Where I live (Southern California) there is no time of day metering, nor different rates for power depending on the time of day you use it, for residential customers. I pay the same per kwh if I use it during the day or night. So, every kwh I put into the grid is equivalent to one kwh I take back at night. The main dollar savings for the solar system is not necessarily in the total kwh I produce, but rather that every kwh I produce is taken off the high
            • Why? Because during the height of your power production with solar (middle of the day), the power draw from the grid is not at it highest, therefore they have surplus.

              You are wrong on this one. In the places I have lived demand is typically highest around 12-4 PM most of the year, largely driven by AC.

              Take a look at this [csu.org] which shows peak rate being 11AM-6PM in the summer.

          • by LWATCDR (28044)
            Not exactly.
            In most states they pay you the retail price for power up until you reach a $0 bill. Once you hit the $0 bill they pay wholesale prices.
        • by Burz (138833)
          Germany apparently gets 15% of its energy from renewables [guardian.co.uk] because they guarantee a high rate of payback. They are actively trying to force their own hand to the point where they have to deal with the energy storage problem; in fact, the pricing structure practically guarantees that companies will be falling over themselves to provide storage solutions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wvmarle (1070040)

        Could the grid handle everyone pumping electricity back into the grid, especially with such a technology as wind, where the amount of power generated tends to be "bursty". Could this backfire a large percentage (> 25%) of homes started doing this?

        It already gives problems in areas like northern Germany and Denmark, where large quantities of wind power are installed. Wind force can drop from 4-6 bft (giving basically maximum output) to zero in a matter of minutes - that is barely enough time for conventional power production to step in, and may result in brown-outs or even black-outs. So yes we are talking about a serious issue here.

        Solar has this issue as well, but bar a total solar eclipse even when clouds come, it will take quite a while for a s

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TooMuchToDo (882796)
          That's why you use nuclear for base load and wind/solar for peak load and other tasks. Example: In the midwest of the US, we've been pumping fossil aquifers dry over the last 100 years (fossil aquifers don't replenish themselves like other aquifers do). During the day, huge windfarms covering the midwest should pump power into the grid of standard use, and at night they should pump power in the grid to charge electric vehicles. Unused power should be used to condense water from the air and pumped undergroun
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by wvmarle (1070040)
            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

            • Oh good god, where do I begin. Your post is so full of fail.

              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.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_load_power_plant [wikipedia.org]

              Base load (also baseload) is the minimum level of demand on an electrical supply system over 24-hours: the load that exists 24 hours a day.

              A base load power plant (or base load power station) is one that is best suited to serving this load because it takes a long time to start up and is relatively inefficient at less than full output. These plants run at all times through the year except in t

              • A base load power plant (or base load power station) is one that is best suited to serving this load because it takes a long time to start up and is relatively inefficient at less than full output. These plants run at all times through the year except in the case of repairs or scheduled maintenance.

                Which is one very good reason not to use nuclear power for base load: it goes off-line unpredictably and for long periods. Currently, both of Scotland's nuclear power stations have been off-line for more than two months, one for planned maintenance, the other for leaks. In the past three years both have been working at the same time for less than six months total.

                Fortunately, we don't need them - we have so much hydro-electric and wind generation that even with the nuclear stations off-line we're still n

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by TooMuchToDo (882796)
                  I'm unfamiliar with the nuclear power plants in Scotland, but I have to disagree with your statement that they go off-line unpredictably and for long periods (your case excluded). I surfed around the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission [http://www.nrc.gov/ [nrc.gov]] website for half an hour, and the only failure of a reactor in the US was Three Mile Island [http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html [nrc.gov]]. Other than that, most reactors in the US hum away day and night, some for over 20 years.
            • 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.

              Errr... it's being done already and has been being done for twenty years at least, in the UK. I know this because my firm has recently been involved in rewriting the software which drives it.

              Essentially a signal is added to television broadcasts - in amongst the teletext data - which indicates to certain industrial plant when to switch on and off for cheaper electricity. A different signal can be broadcast by each regional transmitter, so you can switch on and off these 'energy dumps' on a regional basi

        • by polar red (215081)

          it will take quite a while for a spread-out set of solar cells to all become darkened

          the same could be said of wind of course. Even better : if you spread out your windmills across europe, energy production would be practically constant-> if the whole of europe(or the whole of the US) would be wind-free, that would be because : the sun would have stopped heating the earth AND the earth would have stopped rotating. (because wind is a side effect of the sun shining and the earth rotating) wind-free zones are very local.

      • Not an expert on this subject, but my understanding was that if 25% of homes are putting power onto the grid, then the centralized generators would just have to cut back by an amount equal to the amount being put in. Very often, this means little more impact than they simply use less coal. It would probably have to reach an extreme level of homeowners doing this to have any significant impact (to the point where a powerplant can't scale back production w/o increasing cost).

    • by wvmarle (1070040)
      In The Netherlands your electricity meter will simply run backwards at the moment you start feeding electricity to the network. It is not likely that you will actually produce more than you use yourself in the long run so you just save the cost of the electricity you produce.
    • by oneedge (1026096) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:53PM (#23099516)
      As a NERC certified generation dispatcher, I can tell you for certain that in most cases you will not make a profit putting power back to the US grid, and there's a chance that you may never actually get an investment fully recouped without a state and/or federal rebate or some other program. This doesn't mean that it's a bad idea - just do it for the right reason.

      Some issues that a small "Qualified Facility" has to address:

      How do you measure the power you're putting to the grid? The standard issue power meters only flow in one direction - they don't spin backwards when you're generating more than you're using. They usually require you to install a special meter that requires routine calibration by a licensed professional.

      There's a morass of legal requirements that must be met before you can get paid. Additionally, states have the ability to (and usually do) regulate the profit out of small home renewable energy sources below a certain output level, such as small wind, solar, geothermal, micro-hydro, etc... And above a certain output and you become classified as an "Independent Power Producer" - which opens up a larger can of legal worms. The issues go on and on...

      Bottom line - if you're looking at this as a "get rich quick" scheme, I'm afraid you're going to be sadly disappointed. However, it DOES help by taking the some of the burden off of the greenhouse-gas-spewing power plants, and offsetting your own personal load on an already overloaded grid. Make sure you do your homework for your state and take full advantage of any rebate programs or tax incentives offered.
      • You seem to be well versed due to being a generation dispatcher, so I hope it's OK I ask a question. =) Where would you get started if you wanted to be an independent power producer? Not small scale, I'm talking about 50,000 acres+ of GE 1-3MW wind turbines.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Damvan (824570)
        "The standard issue power meters only flow in one direction - they don't spin backwards when you're generating more than you're using. They usually require you to install a special meter that requires routine calibration by a licensed professional."

        Question for you. Southern California Edison installed the bidirectional meter to measure the electricity that I am using and sending back into the grid (3.2 kw netmetered PV system). This meter does spin backwards. They specifically had to remove my one direc
  • Buying One Myself (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ferretman (224859) <ferretman@[ ]eai.com ['gam' in gap]> on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:08PM (#23099148) Homepage
    This is a great topic and I'm glad to see it pop up here. I'll be buying a wind turbine for the new house I'm building here in a couple of months.

    The reason has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with "being green" or "sticking it to the man". I'm greener than your average bear and have found that "sticking it to the man" rarely works as well as one might have hoped.

    Quite simply, I'll be five miles back from the nearest power line. I poked around and considered solar, but the idea of getting power production 24/7 rather than 5 or 6 hours per day closed the deal for me. My property is in an excellent wind zone (Cat 4 thru Cat 6, depending on which map you look at) and I'll be able to provide 120% of my power needs--excellent. Being able to provide all of my own needs and not be dependent on an ever-more-fragile grid is just a bonus that appeals mightily to the geek in me.

    Turbines overall are great, though I've become convinced the industry is still at the "hand-built and tuned" phase the automotive industry was once in. It'll need more standardization before it can go mainstream in any significant fashion.

    Great technology though.

    Ferretman
    • by solafide (845228)
      How will you deal with internet connection, out of curiosity?
    • Re:Buying One Myself (Score:4, Informative)

      by flyingfsck (986395) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:03PM (#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:Buying One Myself (Score:4, Informative)

        by evanbd (210358) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:41PM (#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.
    • by Reziac (43301) *
      My well guy does windmills on the side, and told me they're usually more of a PITA and expense than they're worth. I take this as a warning to shop very carefully for a *reliable* setup. Anyone have thoughts on specific brands and types?

    • Being able to provide all of my own needs and not be dependent on an ever-more-fragile grid is just a bonus that appeals mightily to the geek in me.

      Except that you aren't independent from the grid - you still need parts and tools and supplies to maintain the turbine.
  • by drphilngood (827006) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:57PM (#23099540)
    Heres an interesting project that I have always wanted to try: http://www.otherpower.com/wardmil.html [otherpower.com]
  • For a windcharger system? That's absurd...just out to lunch, 5 years is more like it, got to be something screwy going on here... /me checks specs on Acme wind turbines....

    OK, spotted the problem right here down in the "included with package" list -> "100ft Acme MONSTER turbine cable"
  • by RobinH (124750) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:41PM (#23099844) Homepage
    Rather than generating more power a home, it's a lot easier to just use less. If you setup a rather simple energy monitoring system in your house (like $100 worth of equipment, etc.) you should be able to reduce your energy usage by 5% just through targetting. That includes using less water, gas, and electricity. Throw gasoline in there and you're really going to save money (and lower your carbon footprint).

    If you really want to make a difference, spearhead an energy monitoring and targetting campaign at work. Disclaimer: I am in the business. Typical savings for industrial sites are in the 5 to 15% range, and for commercial sites are up to 25% savings. Find out how much your company spends on energy/utilities and you'll realize that's a big payoff. It's much bigger than installing some 0.5 m^2 swept area windmill that generates maybe 100W 30% of the time, and 500W 5% of the time, and needs an expensive inverter and lead acid batteries with limited life span.

    If you are really stuck on doing something at home and you have air conditioning, you can get reasonably inexpensive 800W solar panels (they might generate 500W peak on a sunny day in northern climes) and then you could hook it directly to an old 12V marine air conditioner, with only a single 12V battery to balance the load. Then during really hot days you can generate electricity and use it immediately to cool your house, so you don't have the expense of storing the energy for later, and the expense (and maintenance and inefficiency) of an inverter to get back to 120 or 240VAC.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)
      I didn't think reducing power usage and increasing generation were mutually exclusive. They're both good ideas, and there's no particular reason why people couldn't do both (other than time and money, of course).
  • It becomes more difficult to predict power availability, requiring greater excess capacity on peaking plants. This is a standard operations management principle: the greater the variability in in supply (or demand) the (exponentially) more excess capacity is required to achieve a given service level.

    In addition to the random fluctuations, the timing of these things may not be exactly what the grid needs. I know that in a lot of locations in California, the wind turbines supply their peak generation in
    • by Forbman (794277)
      Yes, but...

      Some of that power may be sold and distributed to places besides California. Think: Midwest and East Coast. Why there? Well, something about having 75 deg temps + 90% relative humidity at 4am in Houston, Chicago, Washington DC that makes people keep their ACs humming all night long. At least in most of California during the summer, it tends to cool off in the evenings.

      Then there is some of the electrical demands placed by some users that do not necessarily depend on human peak usage times (i.e.,
      • That's true - but we need mechanisms in place to encourage consumption of electricity during those off-peak times. If there is a huge pipeline that requires a lot of electricity to power, the most economical way to equip a pumping station would be with small enough capacity that running it 24/7 is just enough (with safety capacity, of course). But then it will be consuming lots of peak electricity instead of just that delicious ecological off-peak-hours wind electricity. Until electricity is sold at diff
  • One does not exclude the other, but i have to wonder if energy conservation is not going to be more cost-effective for most people. In hot climates switching from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs (I'm finally starting to see them on the shelves now ) will save you a bunch of electricity in lighting and air condition. In colder climate's heat-pumps ( earth or air based ) can be a good investment.

    Not saying wind turbines don't work, but unless you are already using energy efficient electronics and lighting, a
  • but conformity in neighborhoods is the rage today unless you can find a good home in a very old one. Basically I might be able to get away with solar panels because my S/SW side is away from the road. A windmill of any sort other than decorative would probably be shot down. It doesn't help that local and state governments aren't writing laws to encourage this type of development. Yet at the same time I understand that windmills are a special breed. I have friends who live near the big ones and they eve
    • by Doug Neal (195160)
      I had a similar problem putting my turbine and solar panels up. Eventually I had to put them up in the loft next to the TV antenna.
    • by Damvan (824570)
      It really depends on the state you live in as well.

      In California, there is a state law that prohibits Cities and HOAs from preventing you from installing solar if their only objection is aesthetics. They can say your roof isn't structurally sufficient, or something like that, but they can't stop you because they don't like the way they look.
  • If your home wind-power turbine is making headway, you really need to attach it to the house better.

    Or worse yet, attach your house to the foundation better.
  • I was researching some off-the-grid solutions when buying and renovating my house.

    There are several problems though.

    All of the "off-the-grid" solutions require a backup source of power which means a generator with the kind of fuel that can be stored indefinitely--that is, for a consumer, propane. Diesel and gasoline cannot be practically stored more than 3 months even with preservatives.

    Home owners' association says "no" to turbines or anything else that can be viewed from the street or neighbor. Unfortun

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