Home Wind Power Systems
Consumer wind electric systems are one of the most cost-effective home-based renewable energy systems. They are relatively inexpensive and non-polluting.
How It Works
A wind turbine´s blade rotation converts the wind energy into electricity by connecting a shaft from the blades to an alternator which, while turning, transmits electricity through wires to the home. Modern wind generators usually use three blades but there are different designs especially for home use. The blades and the hub they are attached to are called the rotor, which is the collector of the system and intercept winds that pass by.
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What Is Wind Energy?
Wind is a form of solar energy and is caused by the heating of the atmosphere by the sun. The wind flows across the surface of the earth and the patterns vary with passage of wind through the earth’s terrain. Mountain chains, oceans, lakes and vegetative masses affect the flow patterns of wind and this wind flow, when captured by modern wind turbines, can be used to generate electricity.
A wind energy system produces electrical current by means of gathering up the power from wind with the help of machines known as wind turbines. Wind energy may be generated for home use in stand-alone applications or by the use of multiple turbines called wind farms and distributed to the electric grid.
A typical wind turbine needs to have a sustained wind speed of a minimum of 10 miles/hour in order to turn the wind turbines fast enough to produce electrical current. Wind turbines typically generate around 50-300 kilowatts of electrical current depending on the location and size of the wind power unit.
A Brief History of Wind Turbines
The wind has been a significant energy source in America in rural areas and has played a great part in the settlement of the west. The mechanical windmill was deemed one of the two “high-technology” creations (one of which was barbed wire) of the late 1800′s and paved the way for the development of the western frontier. More than 8 million mechanical windmills were installed in America beginning in the 1860′s and some of them are still in operation today. Back in the 1920′s and 1930′s, families who lived in farms in the Midwest area utilized wind generators rated at 200-3000 watts for powering up their lights, devices like radios, and certain kitchen appliances.
Wind energy regained popularity around the late 70′s and early 80’s because of the so called energy crisis at that time. As people began to search for different sources of reliable energy, small wind turbines came into the picture and were considered to be a cost-efficient means of dealing with alternative energy needs. Tax credits and favorable federal regulations allowed for the installation of more than 4,500 small, 1-25 kW, wind systems in households between 1967 and 1985. An additional 1000 systems were put up for different remote applications.
Small wind turbines have been installed in all of the fifty States. After the expiration of federal tax credit in 1985 and following the oil price drop to $10 per barrel two months later, most of the small wind turbine industry were not able to stay in business. The companies that continue to produce wind systems are considered to be reputable and good providers of products. New companies and designs are entering the market as the price of oil and gas continue to rise.
Some common questions about wind turbines:
How much does it produce?
What can you run from a wind turbine?
What size turbine do you need to power your home?
Wind generators are sold with power ratings. For example, a particular model might be advertised as “1 kilowatt” (1,000 watts). But you should know that it will only produce its rated output a very small percentage of the time. Few energy sources are as variable as the wind. The average output is going to be a fraction of the advertised output because the wind is rarely high enough to enable this much power. A wind turbine is designed to deal with wind speeds averaging between 3 meters per second (7 mph; 11 kph) to 12 m/s (25 mph; 40 kph). You will only see the advertised output in strong winds.
The fuel for energy production from a turbine system is the wind. Energy production from wind turbines depends on two main variables, blade rotor diameter and the wind speed. Blade design has been shown to be a factor but generally the blade diameter is more important. Larger blade diameter captures more wind and produces more energy. The rate that the system converts the wind energy is also a factor. Conversion efficiency varies between manufactures and it is a good idea to check the figures for energy production and see how realistic they are.
In most small-scale designs, the rotor is connected directly to the shaft of a permanent magnet alternator, which creates AC or alternating current. The alternating current three-phase electricity will vary in voltage and frequency with the wind speed. This is not a fixedpower supply like the 60 Hz, 120 VAC electricity that comes out of a common household outlet. Usually the output is changed to DC to either charge batteries or feed a grid friendly inverter. In some large systems as well as some smaller wind systems like the Tulipo, Endurance and Aircon a gearbox is used to increase the alternator speed from a slower turning rotor.
The blades must turn to face the wind so a swivel bearing is used that allows the wind turbine to track the winds as they shift direction. A tail directs the rotor into the wind while a control system limits the rotor speed as well as generator/alternator output to protect the turbine from high winds. A mechanism to shutdown the system in the event that there are problems is also useful to stop the machine when necessary. Extreme storms may damage the system and at times it will need to be serviced.
Even though small wind turbines are usually sturdy and dependable machines, they still need to be properly maintained at least once a year. During maintenance, bolts and electrical connections are thoroughly checked and tightened if needed. Also see if the machine has any sort of corrosion and you should have the guy wires checked for proper tension. Also any worn leading edge tape on the turbine blades should be checked and replaced as necessary. Do not forget to have the turbine blades and/or bearings replaced after 10 years if needed. If you’re not sure how to maintain your system ask your installer for maintenance assistance.