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Bigger isn't better for wind power

Wind power kicks in 0.05 percent of the state's power. In spite of this marginal contribution, there remains a widespread misconception that giant wind turbines, situated in the right locations, are a viable alternative. Unfortunately, big wind farms have prohibitive costs for infrastructure and construction and are inefficient. ...Huge, rotating 80-foot blades catch the wind and are connected by a mammoth driveshaft to convert mechanical power into electrical energy. This is like having a diesel locomotive balanced on a 200-foot pole.

The share of energy from renewable sources is projected to grow significantly during the next two decades as the nation tries to become less dependent on fossil fuels. In an attempt to speed this process, the Michigan Legislature last year required that 10 percent of the state's electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2015. Small wind turbines should be part of the mix.

Wind power kicks in 0.05 percent of the state's power. In spite of this marginal contribution, there remains a widespread misconception that giant wind turbines, situated in the right locations, are a viable alternative.

Unfortunately, big wind farms have prohibitive costs for infrastructure and construction and are inefficient.

On top of 200-foot behemoth towers, several hundred tons of operational gears, generators and electronics are perched in a cabin. Huge, rotating 80-foot blades catch the wind and are connected by a mammoth driveshaft to convert mechanical power into electrical energy. This is like having a diesel locomotive balanced on a 200-foot pole.

The sheer weight and construction complexity of all these components, including the interconnect to the local... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The share of energy from renewable sources is projected to grow significantly during the next two decades as the nation tries to become less dependent on fossil fuels. In an attempt to speed this process, the Michigan Legislature last year required that 10 percent of the state's electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2015. Small wind turbines should be part of the mix.

Wind power kicks in 0.05 percent of the state's power. In spite of this marginal contribution, there remains a widespread misconception that giant wind turbines, situated in the right locations, are a viable alternative.

Unfortunately, big wind farms have prohibitive costs for infrastructure and construction and are inefficient.

On top of 200-foot behemoth towers, several hundred tons of operational gears, generators and electronics are perched in a cabin. Huge, rotating 80-foot blades catch the wind and are connected by a mammoth driveshaft to convert mechanical power into electrical energy. This is like having a diesel locomotive balanced on a 200-foot pole.

The sheer weight and construction complexity of all these components, including the interconnect to the local electrical grid, demand exorbitantly high capital investments in civil engineering infrastructure to build more wind farms and increase the grid capacity -- investments that have all but dried up because of the lack of availability of bank credit.

Government subsidies keep large wind farms and corn ethanol refineries afloat. Future financing of large wind power would most likely have to rely on continued subsidies.

In addition, big windmills are designed to generate power at far less than rated capacity. If strong, heavy gusts of wind pushed them to full output, the torque and vibration stresses on the blades, driveshaft and gears would cause them to break down. Several giant wind turbines have already been destroyed because of high wind loads. Others have failed due to mechanical engineering stress.

Other drawbacks include the limited geography in America where sufficient wind power is readily available -- only 13 percent of the United States has adequate wind sites to drive large wind turbines.

Contrast these high problems with small, vertical axis wind turbines, which take advantage of the horsepower created from the combination of updrafts and prevailing wind around a cylinder mount.

These small, 15-foot-high wind turbines are sleek, quiet in operation and lightweight.

They are designed to be mounted on individual commercial buildings, residential properties or communications towers to generate electricity on a localized basis.

Unlike their giant brethren, whose life expectancy is about 20 years, the small wind generators can last 30 years or more with little maintenance.

When the wind is blowing only 7 to 10 miles per hour, it can charge a battery storage system that will meet all the electrical needs of your home.

If there were a wind shortage for four or five days, the system would automatically switch back to the utility company's grid as a backup.

Although the costs for small wind turbines are about 15 cents per kilowatt hour, it is more than competitive with large wind turbines if you add all the hidden costs of infrastructure associated with large wind.

Small turbines will become more competitive, especially if states give tax credits toward adopting this new alternative energy technology. Small wind turbines provide big possibilities as a great way for Michigan to "go green."

David Koyle is the founder and CEO of Franklin Wind Energy Group, which makes small wind turbines.


Source: http://www.detnews.com/arti...

MAY 11 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/20239-bigger-isn-t-better-for-wind-power
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