EcoRenovator  

Go Back   EcoRenovator > Improvements > Wind Power
Advanced Search
 


Blog Register 60+ Home Energy Saving Tips Recent Posts Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 02-15-09, 08:01 PM   #1
Bob McGovern
Lurking Renovator
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 24
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Default About small wind power, Part 1

Part 1: Reality Check

There's nothing quite as sexy in the homemade electricity world as a modest sized wind turbine. It moves. You can see it making power for you. Visions of cutting the grid umbilical or finding fat power-company checks in the mailbox can lead to fainting spells. But hold up -- before you plunge into the confusing, delicious, noisy, and sometimes hilarious world of small windpower, there are a few home truths you ought to consider.

First, we're going to set vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs) off to one side for this discussion. They have their place -- grinding grain, lifting water, powering remote sensing devices -- but they do not and never can generate meaningful amounts of electrical power. Physics precludes it, and no amount of wishful thinking ever won an argument with Physics.

What's left are the small HAWTs, and a sorry bunch they are. What is "small wind"? Depends on who is talking, probably, but let's stick to turbines bigger than seven feet diameter but smaller than twenty. Larger birds require major, major investments and infrastructure; anything smaller than seven feet is a science fair project. Size matters: you can reliably gauge a wind turbine's output by its diameter, as output (both instantaneous and over time) is almost perfectly proportional to swept area. The obvious corollary: a slightly larger wind turbine may produce very much more power. An 11ft turbine sweeps twice as much area as an 8 ft turbine, tho each blade is only 1.5ft longer. They should be rated 1000W and 2000W respectively, tho more on those numbers in a moment.

A similar phenomenon applies to wind speeds in your location: power available in the wind is the cube of wind speed; very small increments of wind speed can make a huge difference in output. The air 100 ft above the ground may be twice the wind speed at head level and carry eight times as much energy. That's why we put wind turbines on tall poles and why we don't put them on rooftops. It's also why most locations are poor for wind power: in a rare instance of scalability, almost any size turbine is not worth having if your mean wind speed is below 11 mph. Winds below that simply lack energy, and no turbine of any design will produce meaningful juice. Very few places have average wind speeds above 11 mph.

Okay, so you have 12 mph winds, an eight foot turbine makes 1000W, multiply that times 24 hours ... ka-ching! Twenty-four kWh per day!

Well, no. That 1000W faceplate rating is about as honest as those 6hp ShopVacs that run on wall outlets. Both are 'peak' ratings and represent the amperage produced just before melting. Most wind turbines pluck their marketing numbers at "rated wind speed", often around 28 mph, which is where most of them furl or fly to bits. The wind may only achieve 28 mph 1% of the time. Most of its life, your turby will be mucking around at outputs roughly one fifth to one quarter of its peak power. That's a better number for projecting with. Given 12mph wind speeds and that 8ft turbine, you'll probably average 5-6 kWh per day into the grid, a little less into batteries.

About RPMs: an alternator produces lots more juice at higher RPMs than at low. That's one reason VAWTs don't work, and it's why very small HAWTs often spin at up to 1000 RPMs. There's a parameter in wind turbines called Tip Speed Ratio, or TSR. It's a function of blade design and simply measures how fast the fastest part of the blade moves relative to wind speed. Higher TSRs are theoretically more efficient, but in truth drag and turbulence quickly cancel out the gains. High TSR turbines tend to be noisy in normal operation and are hard on blades, bearings, and coils. Many companies rely on high TSRs to compensate for undersized alternators, because copper and magnets are expensive. Consensus recommends 5 to 8 is a good range of TSRs -- blade tips moving five to eight times true wind speed.

All turbines -- wind, water, or steam -- are miserable with engineering binds. Wind turbines are especially bothered by these tradeoffs, given the variable nature of their medium and the realities of location. The binds become acute as wind turbines get smaller. You can have a wind turbine that turns in light winds; it will be poor in strong ones. If the alternator gets up to voltage quickly, it will saturate quickly. If it spins fast, it is noisy; if it spins slow, it makes no power.

Your best hope (and there is hope, honest) is to match a wind turbine to your wind resource and electrical needs, put it on a fairly tall tower, and let it do its thing. They are in no wise perfect, but when the planets align they will deliver goodly chunks of power -- day and night, clouds or sun, winter and summer.

Part 2: Selection, siting, and costs

Bob McGovern is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-16-09, 12:31 AM   #2
groar
X-Frenchy: very
 
groar's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Toulouse, France
Posts: 153
Thanks: 0
Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Default

Thanks a lot
My dream of a VAWT attached on the chimney is gone

Denis.
__________________
Earth absorbs 1.8 t CO2/head/yr, while a French generates 6.2 t CO2/yr
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
  • kg saved 06/08-08/09: 1816.9+382.9 (ecodriving / 1420mi not driven) = 2199.8
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    (2.66 kg/l diesel)
  • kg saved by 3kWc photo-voltaic solar panels : 187 kg/yr
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    (59.1 g/kWh)
Radioactive wastes saved by 3kWc photo-voltaic solar panels :
  • Long life (>100,000 years) : 2.85 g/yr (0.9 mg/kWh)
  • Short life (<300 years) : 31.7 g/yr (10.0 mg/kWh)
Based upon "official" French figures...
groar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-16-09, 08:00 AM   #3
SVOboy
Administrator
 
SVOboy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 291
Thanks: 3
Thanked 4 Times in 4 Posts
Default

Wow! Looking forward to part II, !!!
SVOboy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-16-09, 10:06 AM   #4
Daox
Administrator
 
Daox's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Germantown, WI
Posts: 5,389
Thanks: 1,033
Thanked 353 Times in 288 Posts
Default

Excellent write up! Thanks.
Daox is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-17-09, 06:46 AM   #5
almightybmw
Lurking Renovator
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 6
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Default

I'm not terribly familiar with wind power generation, but if car manufactures can make a CV clutch transmission capable of handling 250ft lbs, would it not be possible to do the same for a wind tower? Let the blades vary speed with wind, but keep the alternator/generator at a relatively efficient range. Seems simple enough. It might work well with smaller scale wind turbine, relatively small forces acting on them. Not sure if the mechanics and failure rates could keep up with the super-scale turbines.

If it works for snowmachines (mobiles..sigh) and cars, why can't regular maintenance work for wind turbines?
almightybmw is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-17-09, 12:21 PM   #6
Bob McGovern
Lurking Renovator
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 24
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by almightybmw View Post
I'm not terribly familiar with wind power generation, but if car manufactures can make a CV clutch transmission capable of handling 250ft lbs, would it not be possible to do the same for a wind tower? Let the blades vary speed with wind, but keep the alternator/generator at a relatively efficient range. Seems simple enough. It might work well with smaller scale wind turbine, relatively small forces acting on them. Not sure if the mechanics and failure rates could keep up with the super-scale turbines.

If it works for snowmachines (mobiles..sigh) and cars, why can't regular maintenance work for wind turbines?
Excellent question. The big commercial turbines do use gearboxes, although that's to get alternator speeds high; rotor speed is held steady via blade pitching. Some smallish turbines have successfully used gearboxes -- the finest residential machines ever built, the Jacobs turbines. Dude was WAY ahead of his time. Fifty year-old Jakes are lovingly remanned and put back in action; of course, it's mostly the gearboxes that need rebuilding.

Any gearing or belt becomes problematic below 25 ft diameter, however -- it's a fractional horsepower issue. You don't care if a belt or chain robs 2 hp from your car -- you have 180 to burn, right? But a 1500 watt home wind turbine only makes 2 hp max. Belts will kill your output. Tall gearing will prevent the blades from starting in medium winds, when a direct-drive turbine would.

Cost is an issue; tower top weight is an issue; above all, complexity is an issue. Anything that can break on a wind turbine will break. Often. Monthly.

For turbines over 25ft, a CVT is not a bad solution, although variable blade pitch is better for maintaining both attack angle and alternator speeds within optimal ranges.
Bob McGovern is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-25-09, 09:17 AM   #7
WisJim
Helper EcoRenovator
 
WisJim's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 41
Thanks: 7
Thanked 7 Times in 7 Posts
Default

Bob, sorry to have to correct you after your excellent original introduction to windpower. But--the old and popular Jacobs generators did not have a gear box. Jacobs did make a few of one model with a gear drive way back in the early days of the company (1930s??), but it was not popular, and although I have seen many dozens if not hundreds of old Jacobs generators, I have seen only a few parts of one of the old gear drive ones.

The current Jacobs machine, and the similar ones built since the 1970s, do have a gear box, but they are quite different from the old original direct drive Jacobs generators. By the way, my 1940s vintage machine has been working well since we first installed it in 1979, although we did replace the blades and governor in 1999. Here's a little info on both the old and the new:
Jacobs Wind Generator Systems

Jim

WisJim is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:48 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
Ad Management by RedTyger
Inactive Reminders By Icora Web Design