Editor’s Note: As posted on WINDExchange, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind Program’s platform for disseminating credible information about wind energy, this release has been derived from audio from Mia Devine. Devine is the Northwest SEED Project Manager, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and empowering communities to develop their own solutions for conservation and for creating a sustainable, local economy. (MP3 1.9 MB; Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:04 | Source: Seanica Otterby, National Association of Farm Broadcasters)
Currently there are some small wind turbines that are not working properly, and people who see these turbines automatically assume wind energy must not work. Wind energy engineer Mia Devine says that’s not true it’s just some wind turbines aren’t correctly installed.
As farmers know, the right plants have to be grown in the right locations. Devine says the same goes for wind turbines. She created a Consumer’s Guide Checklist for Small Wind Electric Systems, designed to educate people about the right and wrong situations for wind turbines to avoid mistakes that are giving small wind a bad reputation.
Devine says there are three common mistakes consumers make when purchasing and installing small wind electric systems. The first is installing a turbine on a tower that’s too short.
If you’ve ever been in an airplane that goes through turbulent weather, you know that turbulence is not good for the aerodynamics of the blades, and that the airplane can suddenly drop in altitude as it seeks smoother air flow. So, wind turbine blades also prefer smooth, steady wind to produce the maximum amount of electricity. Since the wind turbines can’t suddenly change their altitude depending on the conditions like airplanes can, you need to install turbines where there’s minimum likelihood of turbulence.
In residential or farm applications, things that cause turbulence are your house, your barn, trees. So, when the wind flows over these obstructions, it creates a turbulent wake that extends a significant distance down wind and also above the obstruction. In order to avoid this turbulent zone of wind, the general guideline is to install your wind turbine so that the entire blade rotor is at least 30 feet above the height of any obstructions that are located within 500 feet of your wind turbine tower base.
The second mistake is installing an unproven wind turbine design. Devine says it can be hard for consumers to determine which models and manufacturers work best.
When you’re shopping for a wind turbine, be sure to look for the small wind certification label. It will tell you the kilowatt-hours that your wind turbine should produce at certain wind speeds over a year. The method of calculating that number is standard across manufacturers. The certification process also looks at the durability, safety features, sound that the wind turbine might produce.
Devine says there are a number of websites that list which turbines are certified. One is www.smallwindcertification.org.
The third mistake is setting unrealistic expectations. Devine says small wind turbines are not right for everyone, so it’s important for people to do their homework before purchasing a wind turbine.
There are a lot of different marketing claims out there. These marketing terms might not reflect reality. It’s important for a consumer to do his or her homework, verifying these sales claims with an independent source. You can ask for customer references, call these references, see if they like the wind turbine that they purchased, see if it’s performing to their expectations. You can contact your state energy office for information.
The U.S. Department of Energy also has a great website through their WINDExchange program. There are also DOE-funded wind Regional Resource Centers.