Sunday, November 11, 2007

Power from the Wind

Encountered two articles on TreeHugger covering two very different aspects of electric generation from wind power. The first is a technological improvement being introduced in China to reduce the friction associated with a wind turbine through the use of magnets. Seems they are using maglev principles with a permanent magnet versus an electro magnet. This could be a really interesting development, as I suspect this would help to reduce the energy consumed during wind generation, or fed to a wind farm in off peak to keep the turbine running.

The second describes a press release made available from WindTerra for a residential wind turbine now approved for use in California. The system looks to cost about 1/3 that of a solar installation based on the info quoted from the press release. Output is claimed to be over 1600 kwH at an average windspeed of 11.18 mph, though power generation begins at 10.8 mph. It is designed to be a low RPM system to reduce noise and vibration to its host structure as well. Depending on the source, it would appear that the average household annual electricity usage is 8600+ kwH (or around 1kwH/day). At an installed cost of over $7000, it is a better deal than PV, and if combined with a battery system and aggressive energy saving techniques, this could be an interesting addition to homes, but what about installing a small grid of these on a building to offset the occupants electricity?

On the other side of the wind power coin is the National Wind Watch, whose purpose is to point out the negatives and ills of using wind energy. According to their flier, windmills are a "harmful boondoggle". They achieve their "rated" outputs about 1/3 of the time, are unsightly for a number of reasons, potentially dangerous, disturb nature during their construction and operation, and in some cases draw power off the grid instead of contributing. An organization opposed to developing wind power isn't unique, but does claim to not be the mouthpiece of any lobby, but rather a network of concerned individuals. On the upshot, they seem to do a pretty good job of monitoring the media for news related to wind projects, culling local newspapers as well as national and international sources. They're on my watchlist to keep appraised of local developments in Rhode Island.

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