As suppliers of inverters for turbines good, bad, and just plain ugly, we have pretty well seen it all when it comes to turbine failure. We can tell you unequivocally that you get what you pay for. Depending on your sense of adventure that can be good or bad; if you plan to go cheap, plan on (you) being the manufacturer’s R&D department and test center. Being a really good do-it-yourselfer with an understanding of wind turbines, alternators, and all things electric will come in very handy too. Just in case you do not believe us, you can read about it in this Green Power Talk thread. There are more threads with similar content on the forum, just browse around a little.
A Darrieus type vertical axis wind turbine (the egg-beater type) can in theory work almost as good as a horizontal axis turbine. Actual measurement of one of the better designs out there, the UGE VisionAir5, does not bear that out though: It measures in at a pitiful 11% efficiency at 11 m/s wind speed, while a Bergey Excel-6 HAWT clocks in at 22% efficiency for that same wind speed, twice as much. You can read about it in Paul Gipe’s article. Besides efficiency issues, a Darrieus VAWT unfortunately has a number of inherent issues that put them at a disadvantage: Since they are usually tall and relatively narrow structures the bending forces on their main bearing (at the bottom) are very large. There are similar issues with the forces on the blades. This means that to make a reliable vertical axis turbine takes more material, and more expensive materials, in comparison to a horizontal type turbine. For comparison, that same UGE VisionAir5 weighs 756 kg vs. the Bergey Excel-6 at 350 kg. Keep in mind that the UGE turbine only sweeps about half the area of the Bergey, the latter is a much larger turbine! This makes VAWTs inherently more expensive, or less reliable, or both.
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Usually however, renewable energy is derived from the mains electricity grid. This means that energy storage is mostly not used, as the mains electricity grid is organised to produce the exact amount of energy being consumed at that particular moment. Energy production on the mains electricity grid is always set up as a combination of (large-scale) renewable energy plants, as well as other power plants as fossil-fuel power plants and nuclear power. This combination however, which is essential for this type of energy supply (as e.g. wind turbines, solar power plants etc.) can only produce when the wind blows and the sun shines. This is also one of the main drawbacks of the system as fossil fuel powerplants are polluting and are a main cause of global warming (nuclear power being an exception). Although fossil fuel power plants too can be made emissionless (through carbon capture and storage), as well as renewable (if the plants are converted to e.g. biomass) the best solution is still to phase out the latter power plants over time. Nuclear power plants too can be more or less eliminated from their problem of nuclear waste through the use of nuclear reprocessing and newer plants as fast breeder and nuclear fusion plants.
The conversion of the rotational mechanical power generated by the rotor blades (known as the prime mover) into useful electrical power for use in domestic power and lighting applications or to charge batteries can be accomplished by any one of the following major types of rotational electrical machines commonly used in a wind power generating systems:
Most installers overrate the available wind resource. The majority of small wind turbine installations underperforms their predictions, often by a wide margin. Since wind speed is the most important parameter for turbine energy production, getting that wrong has large consequences (the power in the wind goes with the cube of the wind speed, so double the wind speed and the power in it is 2 * 2 * 2 = 8x as much). You have to be realistic about your annual average wind speed.
According to a 2011 projection by the International Energy Agency, solar power generators may produce most of the world's electricity within 50 years, reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases that harm the environment. Cedric Philibert, senior analyst in the renewable energy division at the IEA said: "Photovoltaic and solar-thermal plants may meet most of the world's demand for electricity by 2060 – and half of all energy needs – with wind, hydropower and biomass plants supplying much of the remaining generation". "Photovoltaic and concentrated solar power together can become the major source of electricity", Philibert said.
For a 6 kW wind turbine to produce that much energy per average year, you need an annual average wind speed of close to 5 m/s (11 mph) blowing at turbine hub height. It may not sound like much, but that is a reasonably windy place. Much of North America does not have that much wind at 100′ or below. Keep in mind, you need that much wind just to break even in energy production vs. solar. To outweigh the disadvantages of small turbines you better have more!
Renewable energy resources and significant opportunities for energy efficiency exist over wide geographical areas, in contrast to other energy sources, which are concentrated in a limited number of countries. Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and technological diversification of energy sources, would result in significant energy security and economic benefits. It would also reduce environmental pollution such as air pollution caused by burning of fossil fuels and improve public health, reduce premature mortalities due to pollution and save associated health costs that amount to several hundred billion dollars annually only in the United States. Renewable energy sources, that derive their energy from the sun, either directly or indirectly, such as hydro and wind, are expected to be capable of supplying humanity energy for almost another 1 billion years, at which point the predicted increase in heat from the sun is expected to make the surface of the earth too hot for liquid water to exist.
Besides getting a working product, the one measure you are after as a small wind turbine owner is how much electrical energy it will produce for your location. Hopefully by now you know the annual average wind speed for the height that you are planning to put your turbine at, and you have selected a site with little turbulence. Forget about the manufacturer’s claims; it turns out that the best predictors for turbine energy production are the diameter and average wind speed. Here is an equation that will calculate approximate annual average energy production for a grid-tie horizontal axis turbine of reasonable efficiency:
The total number of commercial and industrial renewable energy deals will be even higher, as RMI's numbers refer only to contracts for large, off-site renewable energy projects. That means rooftop solar projects deployed by the likes of Ikea and Target are not included in the RMI deal tracker, which was updated this week at the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance conference in Oakland, California.
Projections vary. The EIA has predicted that almost two thirds of net additions to power capacity will come from renewables by 2020 due to the combined policy benefits of local pollution, decarbonisation and energy diversification. Some studies have set out roadmaps to power 100% of the world’s energy with wind, hydroelectric and solar by the year 2030.
All these electrical machines are electromechanical devices that work on Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction. That is they operate through the interaction of a magnetic flux and an electric current, or flow of charge. As this process is reversible, the same machine can be used as a conventional electrical motor for converting the electrical power into mechanical power, or as a generator converting the mechanical power back into the electrical power.
Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.