|The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is creating a small wind turbine testing facility, and with the help from industry experts, is creating a testing standard for manufacturers so we can finally compare apples to apples.|
Gregory Price, Abundant Renewable Energy
Does small wind really work? Will small wind work for me?
Small wind does work and can work for you, it simply needs to be applied properly. There is a steep learning curve to small wind and contrary to some claims wind turbines are not simple home appliances. When was the last time you needed a concrete truck and a crane to install your refrigerator? So buyers beware. Take the time to seek unbiased information. There are plenty of very reputable non-profit organizations and universities out there who are bending over backwards to get this information into the hands of consumers, take advantage of it.
Like any information asymmetry it can be easy to get taken advantage of if you don’t take the time to educate yourself about the technology.
There are manufacturers and installers out there that will tell you just about anything to make a sell, “this turbine will produce enough energy to power your entire house!” I have heard this statement way too many times before the dealer/manufacturer even knows how much their client is consuming, or what their wind resource is, let alone be able to ensure the quality of the turbine.
But don’t fret, there is work being done to combat these problems. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is creating a small wind turbine testing facility, and with the help from industry experts, is creating a testing standard for manufacturers so we can finally compare apples to apples. The North American Board of Energy Practitioners is working on creating a certification for small wind installers similar to what has been done with solar. With long-standing, well respected members of the small wind industry behind both of these efforts we hope to see this fledgling industry transition into a mature and mainstream industry that can assure end users of the quality of their product and installation.
Another issue facing small wind is zoning. With thousands of zoning boards across the state, all with their own rules, it can become a very cumbersome process to permit some installations or get height variances, and in some instances may be impossible. Many zoning boards don’t have a template that applies to small wind, and don’t have the time or interest to create something that works. The fine folks at Renew Wisconsin have created a template that works for the whole state http://www.renewwisconsin.org/wind/windtoolbox.html. This is a great example of a proactive community working together to create a solution that makes a very important statement “we stand behind renewable energy, and want to see it work for everyone”. So if you find yourself in front of a disgruntled zoning board, don’t give up, help to set a precedent and pave the way for the next person. There are resources available to help you in your efforts and we are out here to give them to you!
One of the biggest hurdles for small wind is incentives. It is never healthy to base industry growth around incentives, but as we have seen the impact of the PTC on commercial wind, and the fact that most other conventional sources of energy production enjoy a huge amount of tax payer money, it makes it very hard to compete on a playing field that is not level. Creating a federal incentive program and requiring annual net metering for every utility would be in the interest of the utilities, the state, the country and the environment!
This is not something those in the industry, or those interested in seeing the mass proliferation of renewable energy should expect to be done for us. Petition your local representatives, call your local utility, and support renewable energy by making a conscience effort to spend your money with those who also support it. You can find a current list of your state’s incentives and interconnection policies at www.dsireusa.org.
Q & A With Gregory Price
What are some of the largest obstacle facing residential wind?
Getting nationwide net metering or feed in tariffs, creating zoning policies that are conducive to the installation of wind turbines, implementing federal wide incentive programs, and generating more public awareness and consumer education about the benefits and differences in residential wind systems.
How would one know if residential wind is right for them?
A general rule of thumb is you need an annual average wind speed of 12mph and at least an acre of land. The latter is not absolutely necessary depending on your local zoning requirements and your neighbors, but the more land you have the easier the system is to site and permit.
Are there any aid or incentive programs available for residential wind?
There are many incentives available that could be in the form of a rebate, a tax exemption or credit, a production credit, grants, or a low to no interest loans. These may be available through the state, your utility, or in very few cases the federal government. The most comprehensive site for state-by-state incentives is www.dsireusa.org.
What are some of the benefits to residential wind?
Energy independence, environmental sustainability, a fixed cost of energy production or in other words energy security, ability to generate remote power, in some cases a very positive return on investment, and a new affinity for the wind that having a residential energy system inevitably creates!
Physically, how much space would one need in order to incorporate a small wind system in their home?
The actual foot print of a tower will depend on the type and size of the tower. A self supporting tower may only take up to anywhere from 50-150sq ft, but a guyed latticed tower may take over 1,000sq ft depending on the model and the height. Generally speaking, the smaller the foot print, the more expensive the tower. There may be some requirements with your zoning board on how far the tower needs to be from a dwelling, or from your property line. This is why, usually the more space you have, the easier it is to install the tower (hence the acre+). If you know you have a decent wind site, often checking with your zoning board is the next move.
Can you provide us with a list of equipment and perhaps a small schematic diagram showing how a small wind system works?
You basically need a tower and your turbine with your lead wires running to a controller that charges a battery bank and then feeds an inverter to power your loads, or you can go directly from your controller to an inverter that is tied into the grid for a direct utility interfacing system.
I have attached a presentation, and in it there are some very basic diagrams of different systems configurations.
In general terms, what does it cost to incorporate a small wind system in a home ... and how much of the energy consumption could we expect to generate?
First off, we are not generating consumption, we would be generating energy to off-set your current consumption! Reducing your current consumption is always the first place to start, conservation, energy efficiency, then renewable energy!
A residential wind system can cost anywhere from $10,000-$100,000. It is highly likely that you would be able to produce enough energy for an average electric home from a system that costs $10,000, and there is no guarantee that a $100,000 will be enough. It is crucial to know what your wind resource is. Wind velocity has a cubic relationship to power production. In laymen’s terms, small increase in wind speed = large increase in power. Twice the wind speed will yield eight times the power! So a turbine that might produce enough energy for an average home in one site, may not in another depending on resource.
The one thing that you can do to increase the production from a wind turbine is mount it on a taller tower. The higher up in the air column you go, the more velocity in the wind and the more power from your turbine.
All of these factors need to be taken into consideration before you can get a rough idea of how much energy you can expect to produce from a given system, or how much it will cost. What we try to do is determine your consumption (KWH/year), this can be found from your utility bill, then get a good idea of what your wind resource is, this can be done through wind mapping tools. Once we know those variables we can match it up with the available technology to determine what a particular turbine will produce at your site at a given height, and how much we can anticipate to off-set your current consumption with the end goal of net zero and energy independence!