Small Wind Electric Systems
Small wind electric systems are one of the most cost-effective, home-based renewable energy systems. These systems are also nonpolluting.
If a small wind electric system is right for you, it can do the following:
Small wind electric systems can also be used for a variety of other applications, including water pumping on farms and ranches.
Here you can find the following information:
Wind is created by the unequal heating of the Earth's surface by the sun. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in wind into clean electricity.
When the wind spins the wind turbine's blades, a rotor captures the kinetic energy of the wind and converts it into rotary motion to drive the generator. The manufacturer can provide information on the maximum wind speed at which the turbine is designed to operate safely. Most turbines have automatic overspeed-governing systems to keep the rotor from spinning out of control in very high winds.
A small wind system can be connected to an electric distribution system (grid-connected) or it can stand alone (off-grid) .
A small wind energy system can provide a practical and economical source of electricity if the following apply to you:
To capture and convert the wind's kinetic energy into electricity, a home wind energy system generally comprises the following:
Most small wind turbines manufactured today are horizontal-axis, upwind machines that have two or three blades. These blades are usually made of a composite material, such as fiberglass. Some turbines use a downwind design, which has no tail to steer the turbine into the wind (upwind)
The turbine's frame is the structure onto which the rotor, generator, and tail are attached. The amount of energy a turbine will produce is determined primarily by the diameter of its rotor. The diameter of the rotor defines its "swept area," or the quantity of wind intercepted by the turbine. The tail keeps the turbine facing into the wind.
Small wind turbines range in size from 400 watts to 20 kilowatts. What size wind turbine you'll need depends on your application. These are the most common applications for small wind turbines:
Other applications include charging batteries for recreational vehicles and sailboats, which typically use "micro" turbines (20–500 watts).
Most U.S. manufacturers rate their small wind turbines by the amount of power they can safely produce at a particular wind speed, usually between 24 and 36 miles-per-hour. Newer turbine designs provide peak power at much lower wind speeds, ranging from 8-12 mph.
Because wind speeds increase with height, a small wind turbine is mounted on a tower. In general, the higher the tower, the more power the wind system can produce. The tower also raises the turbine above the air turbulence that can exist close to the ground because of obstructions such as hills, buildings, and trees.
Relatively small investments in increased tower height can yield very high rates of return in power production. For instance, to raise a 10-kilowatt generator from a 60-foot tower height to a 100-foot tower involves a 10% increase in overall system cost, but it can produce 25% more power.
The estimated annual energy output and turbine size you'll need can help determine the best tower height.
Types of Towers
Most turbine manufacturers provide wind energy system packages that include towers. There are two basic types of towers: self-supporting (free-standing) and guyed. There are also tilt-down versions of guyed towers.
Most home wind power systems use a guyed tower, which are the least expensive. Guyed towers can consist of these components:
Guyed towers are easier to install than self-supporting towers. However, because the guy radius must be one-half to three-quarters of the tower height, guyed towers require enough space to accommodate them.
While tilt-down towers are more expensive, they offer the consumer an easy way to perform maintenance on smaller light-weight turbines, usually 10 kilowatt or less. Tilt-down towers can also be lowered to the ground during hazardous weather such as hurricanes. Aluminum towers are prone to cracking and should be avoided.
Installation or Mounting
A general rule of thumb is to install a small wind turbine on a tower with the bottom of the rotor blades at least 30 feet (9 meters) above any obstacle that is within 300 feet (90 meters) of the tower.
Mounting small wind turbines on rooftops is not recommended. All wind turbines vibrate and transmit the vibration to the structure on which they are mounted. This vibration can lead to noise and structural problems with the building, and mounting on the rooftop can expose the turbine to excessive turbulence that can shorten its life.
The balance-of-system parts—those in addition to the wind turbine and the tower—you'll need for a small wind electric system depend on your application and the type of turbine that is selected. For example, the parts required for a water pumping system will be much different from what you need for a residential application. In addition, while many turbines generate a DC voltage, some are designed to produce a regulated AC output, incorporating the inverter circuitry into the body of the turbine.
The balance-of-system parts required will also depend on the type of system:
Most manufacturers can provide you with a system package that includes all the parts you need for your particular application. For a residential grid-connected application, the balance-of-system parts may include the following:
These are the same components that are used in Solar Electric generation applications, which makes implementation of a hybrid PV-Wind system an obvious choice.
Small wind energy systems can be connected to the electricity distribution system. These are called grid-connected systems.
A grid-connected wind turbine can reduce your consumption of utility-supplied electricity for lighting, appliances, and electric heat. If the turbine cannot deliver the amount of energy you need, the utility makes up the difference. When the wind system produces more electricity than the household requires, the excess is sent or sold to the utility.
With this type of grid-connection, note that the wind turbine will operate only when the utility grid is available. During power outages, the wind turbine is required to shut down due to safety concerns.
Grid-connected systems can be practical if the following conditions exist:
Wind Power can be used in off-grid systems, also called stand-alone systems, not connected to an electric distribution system or grid. In these applications, small wind electric systems can be used in combination with other components—including a small solar electric system —to create hybrid power systems . Hybrid power systems can provide reliable off-grid power for homes, farms, or even entire communities (a co-housing project, for example) that are far from the nearest utility lines.Off-grid systems, also called stand-alone systems, are not connected to an electric distribution system or grid.
Hybrid wind energy systems can provide reliable off-grid power for homes, farms, or even entire communities (a co-housing project, for example) that are far from the nearest utility lines.
An off-grid, hybrid electric system may be practical for you if the items below describe your situation:
In much of the United States, wind speeds are low in the summer when the sun shines brightest and longest. The wind is strong in the winter when less sunlight is available. Because the peak operating times for wind and solar systems occur at different times of the day and year, hybrid systems are more likely to produce power when you need it.
Many hybrid systems are stand-alone systems , which operate "off-grid"—not connected to an electricity distribution system. For the times when neither the wind nor the solar system are producing, most hybrid systems provide power through batteries and/or an engine generator powered by conventional fuels, such as diesel. If the batteries run low, the engine generator can provide power and recharge the batteries.
Adding an engine generator makes the system more complex, but modern electronic controllers can operate these systems automatically. An engine generator can also reduce the size of the other components needed for the system. Keep in mind that the storage capacity must be large enough to supply electrical needs during non-charging periods.
Battery banks are typically sized to supply the electric load for one to three days.
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