What you should know about wind turbines
There has been a lot of discussion around wind turbines and whether or not they will ever be affordable enough to run a home. At this stage in time, it's a large investment to set up a wind powered system, especially in view of the pros and cons.
Firstly, if you live in an urban area and already have grid (municipal) power, it will generally be cost prohibitive to install a wind turbine. Secondly, it is far more cost effective to have a backup generator to provide power automatically during load shedding for TV, lights , computers etc., or consider the alternatives to use gas to cook and solar heaters for hot water.
How does a wind turbine work?
Wind turbines are mounted on a tower so the wind's energy can be transferred to the rotor blades, which turn the alternator. In the alternator permanent magnets are rotated around coils wound into special steel laminations in a three phase connection, producing alternating (AC) power. A cable with three conductors feeds this power to a rectifier that converts the power to direct current (DC), which is fed into a battery. When the battery is full the controller diverts the power to a "Dump Load' (a resistor bank).
How easy is it to install a wind turbine?
Taking into consideration that a wind turbine must be mounted onto a tower, over and above the planning permission required, the location needs to be prepared and the tower installed before the turbine can be fitted.
To realise the true potential of a wind turbine, it needs to be 5-10 meters above the surroundings where the wind stream is less turbulent and a higher speed.
Can I run a home on wind turbine power?
There are already homes around the world off wind and solar - with diesel backup. To ascertain the amount of power required to run your home you will need to undertake a power audit to determine your daily energy requirements. Some lifestyle changes will also be required:
- Energy saver lights
- Gas cooking
- Solar water heating
- Washing machines without water heating
- TV, VCR, Satellite Decoder, Audio Systems
- Computer, Ink Jet printers (Lasers need a big Inverter)
- Laptop Computers, Modems
- Sewing Machine
- Small pumps
- Alarm Systems
- Electric Fence Energizers
- Communication Radios
- Cell Phone and Camera Chargers
- Electric Clothes Irons
- Air conditioner
- Electric stoves
- Hair dryers
According to Peter Burden at SolarSells, Wind turbines are great as a means of supplementing power to an off grid system, but the only real way to use the power in an urban situation is to grid-tie it so that all power is exported into the grid. This is easily done with a windyboy grid inverter. Bigger wind turbines require regular maintenance and can be a big headache if one has to take them down every 2 years which is normally the case and in the Cape winds even more frequently. If you are not a hands on type of person rather go for solar power.