What is a small wind turbine? Anything under, say, 10 meters rotor diameter (30 feet) is well within the “small wind” category. That works out to wind turbines with a rated power up to around 20 kW (at 11 m/s, or 25 mph). For larger wind turbines the manufacturers are usually a little more honest, and more money is available to do a good site analysis. The information in this article is generic: The same applies to all the other brands and models, be they of the HAWT (Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine) or VAWT (Vertical Axis Wind Turbine) persuasion.
Wind turbines allow us to harness the power of the wind and turn it into energy. When the wind blows, the turbine's blades spin clockwise, capturing energy. This triggers the main shaft, connected to a gearbox within the nacelle, to spin. The gearbox sends that energy to the generator, converting it to electricity. Electricity then travels down the tower to a transformer, where voltage levels are adjusted to match with the grid.
Many industrialized nations have installed significant solar power capacity into their grids to supplement or provide an alternative to conventional energy sources while an increasing number of less developed nations have turned to solar to reduce dependence on expensive imported fuels (see solar power by country). Long distance transmission allows remote renewable energy resources to displace fossil fuel consumption. Solar power plants use one of two technologies:
Photovoltaics (PV) uses solar cells assembled into solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. It's a fast-growing technology doubling its worldwide installed capacity every couple of years. PV systems range from small, residential and commercial rooftop or building integrated installations, to large utility-scale photovoltaic power station. The predominant PV technology is crystalline silicon, while thin-film solar cell technology accounts for about 10 percent of global photovoltaic deployment. In recent years, PV technology has improved its electricity generating efficiency, reduced the installation cost per watt as well as its energy payback time, and has reached grid parity in at least 30 different markets by 2014. Financial institutions are predicting a second solar "gold rush" in the near future.
These high strength magnets are usually made from rare earth materials such as neodymium iron (NdFe), or samarium cobalt (SmCo) eliminating the need for the field windings to provide a constant magnetic field, leading to a simpler, more rugged construction. Wound field windings have the advantage of matching their magnetism (and therefore power) with the varying wind speed but require an external energy source to generate the required magnetic field.
Most current solar power plants are made from an array of similar units where each unit is continuously adjusted, e.g., with some step motors, so that the light converter stays in focus of the sun light. The cost of focusing light on converters such as high-power solar panels, Stirling engine, etc. can be dramatically decreased with a simple and efficient rope mechanics. In this technique many units are connected with a network of ropes so that pulling two or three ropes is sufficient to keep all light converters simultaneously in focus as the direction of the sun changes.
Solar power panels that use nanotechnology, which can create circuits out of individual silicon molecules, may cost half as much as traditional photovoltaic cells, according to executives and investors involved in developing the products. Nanosolar has secured more than $100 million from investors to build a factory for nanotechnology thin-film solar panels. The company's plant has a planned production capacity of 430 megawatts peak power of solar cells per year. Commercial production started and first panels have been shipped to customers in late 2007.
Electricity for my off-grid cabin comes from solar and wind power stored in a bank of four 6-volt golf cart batteries wired for a 12-volt system. A charge controller and battery minder keep my system from under- or overcharging. The whole shebang cost me less than $1,000, and I have lights, fans, a television and stereo, refrigeration, and a disco ball that goes up for special occasions.
In 2016, the city bought its way out of a contract providing energy derived from fossil fuels and arranged to get its power from a 97-unit windfarm in Adrian, Texas, about 500 miles away in the Texas Panhandle. Georgetown doesn’t own the farm, but its agreement allowed the owners to get the financing to build it. This spring, Georgetown is adding power from a 154-megawatt solar farm being built by NRG Energy in Fort Stockton, 340 miles to the west of the city.
VAWT type turbines have no inherent advantage over HAWT type turbines. There, we have said it! VAWTs do not do any better in turbulent wind than HAWTs. Leaving the Savonius type VAWTs out (the type that looks like an oil drum cut in half – they have very poor efficiency anyway), both horizontal and vertical type turbines rely on an airfoil, a wing, to produce power. Airfoils simply do not work well in turbulent air; the wind needs to hit them at just the right angle and eddies wreak havoc. Couple that with the insistence of vertical axis turbine manufacturers to install their devices on very short towers or rooftops, and you get the picture. It will not work.
Going forward, there is hope for the small wind future! Certification programs are under way in various places to provide real turbine performance data. In North America this is being spearheaded by the Small Wind Certification Council, which requires third-party certification of turbine performance in a standardized fashion. Manufacturers will no longer be able to fudge power curves, or specify ‘rated power’ at hurricane-force wind speeds. This will allow you, the consumer, to compare turbines on a much more even footing.
“Five New State Governors Aim for 100% Renewables” • Five governors-elect in Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Connecticut, and Maine, states with a combined population of 26 million, put forth campaign goals of 100% renewable electricity. Currently, only California and Hawaii have a deadline to move to 100% zero-carbon electricity. [pv magazine International]
The political purpose of incentive policies for PV is to facilitate an initial small-scale deployment to begin to grow the industry, even where the cost of PV is significantly above grid parity, to allow the industry to achieve the economies of scale necessary to reach grid parity. The policies are implemented to promote national energy independence, high tech job creation and reduction of CO2 emissions. Three incentive mechanisms are often used in combination as investment subsidies: the authorities refund part of the cost of installation of the system, the electricity utility buys PV electricity from the producer under a multiyear contract at a guaranteed rate, and Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs)
Even if you can’t directly purchase and install a solar system because you rent your home, have inadequate solar resources, or lack financing, you may still benefit from switching to solar electricity, and there numerous business models that make solar easier, cheaper, and more accessible. Options such as community or shared solar programs, solar leases, and power-purchase agreements allow millions of households to take advantage of solar energy. Learn about the various ways you can go solar.
Wind turbines do work; put them in nice, smooth air and their energy production is quite predictable (we will get to predicting it a bit further on in this story). The honest manufacturers do not lie or exaggerate, their turbines really can work as advertised in smooth, laminar airflow. However, put that same turbine on a 40 feet tower and even if the annual average wind speed is still 5 m/s at that height, its energy production will fall far short of what you would predict for that value. How short is anybody’s guess, that is part of the point; it is impossible to predict the effect of turbulence other than that it robs the energy production potential of any wind turbine. Roof tops, or other locations on a house, make for poor turbine sites. They are usually very turbulent and on top of that their average wind speeds are usually very low.
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The comments stand in contrast to those made by Trump administration representatives also speaking at the energy summit, which is known as CERAWeek. Rick Perry, the energy secretary, on Wednesday criticized what he described as the “mind-set of the Paris agreement” that he contends supports renewable energy to the exclusion of other energy sources. And he took aim at countries pledging to phase out coal use.
Adam Schultz, a senior policy analyst for the Oregon Department of Energy, says he’s more encouraged than ever about the prospects for renewables. Because the Pacific Northwest features large-scale hydropower plants built as part of the New Deal, energy already tends to be less expensive there than the U.S. average. But solar and wind power have “gotten cheaper over the last couple years to the point that I can’t even tell you what the costs are because costs have been dropping so rapidly,” Schultz says. “We have enough sunshine,” he says (presumably referring to the eastern part of the state), “so it’s just a matter of time.”
Biomass briquettes are increasingly being used in the developing world as an alternative to charcoal. The technique involves the conversion of almost any plant matter into compressed briquettes that typically have about 70% the calorific value of charcoal. There are relatively few examples of large-scale briquette production. One exception is in North Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where forest clearance for charcoal production is considered to be the biggest threat to mountain gorilla habitat. The staff of Virunga National Park have successfully trained and equipped over 3500 people to produce biomass briquettes, thereby replacing charcoal produced illegally inside the national park, and creating significant employment for people living in extreme poverty in conflict-affected areas.
Electricity produced by wind generators can be used directly, as in water pumping applications, or it can be stored in batteries for later use. Wind generators can be used alone, or they may be used as part of a hybrid system, in which their output is combined with that of solar panels, and /or a fossil fuel generator. Hybrid systems are especially useful for winter backup of home systems where cloudy weather and windy conditions occur simultaneously.
From 1978 to 1996, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory experimented with producing algae fuel in the "Aquatic Species Program." A self-published article by Michael Briggs, at the University of New Hampshire Biofuels Group, offers estimates for the realistic replacement of all motor vehicle fuel with biofuels by utilizing algae that have a natural oil content greater than 50%, which Briggs suggests can be grown on algae ponds at wastewater treatment plants. This oil-rich algae can then be extracted from the system and processed into biofuels, with the dried remainder further reprocessed to create ethanol. The production of algae to harvest oil for biofuels has not yet been undertaken on a commercial scale, but feasibility studies have been conducted to arrive at the above yield estimate. During the biofuel production process algae actually consumes the carbon dioxide in the air and turns it into oxygen through photosynthesis. In addition to its projected high yield, algaculture— unlike food crop-based biofuels — does not entail a decrease in food production, since it requires neither farmland nor fresh water. Many companies are pursuing algae bio-reactors for various purposes, including scaling up biofuels production to commercial levels.
Plant energy is produced by crops specifically grown for use as fuel that offer high biomass output per hectare with low input energy. Some examples of these plants are wheat, which typically yield 7.5–8 tonnes of grain per hectare, and straw, which typically yield 3.5–5 tonnes per hectare in the UK. The grain can be used for liquid transportation fuels while the straw can be burned to produce heat or electricity. Plant biomass can also be degraded from cellulose to glucose through a series of chemical treatments, and the resulting sugar can then be used as a first generation biofuel.
Other cities won’t have it so easy. Take Atlanta. Residents buy energy from Georgia Power, which is owned by investors. As things stand, Atlantans have no control over how their power is generated, though that may change. In 2019, Georgia Power, by state law, has to update its energy plan. Ted Terry, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club, says the nonprofit is working with Atlanta officials to incorporate renewables, primarily solar, into the state’s plan. Developing such energy sources on a scale that can power a metro area with 5.8 million people, as in Atlanta, or 7.68 million in the San Francisco Bay Area, or 3.3 million in San Diego, will prove challenging. But it doesn’t seem impossible. In 2015, California set a goal of deriving 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Its three investor-owned utilities—Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric—are poised to achieve that goal just two years from now, or ten years early.
Alternatively, SRECs allow for a market mechanism to set the price of the solar generated electricity subsity. In this mechanism, a renewable energy production or consumption target is set, and the utility (more technically the Load Serving Entity) is obliged to purchase renewable energy or face a fine (Alternative Compliance Payment or ACP). The producer is credited for an SREC for every 1,000 kWh of electricity produced. If the utility buys this SREC and retires it, they avoid paying the ACP. In principle this system delivers the cheapest renewable energy, since the all solar facilities are eligible and can be installed in the most economic locations. Uncertainties about the future value of SRECs have led to long-term SREC contract markets to give clarity to their prices and allow solar developers to pre-sell and hedge their credits.
Most in the industry agree that 11 m/s (24.6 mph) makes for a good rated wind speed. Go above it and very soon the turbine should be hard at work to protect itself from destruction, by furling, governing, or shutting down. Those that do not will likely face a short and tortured life. If we agree on 11 m/s, an equation for a realistic rated power number is as follows:
The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is a 550 MW power plant in Riverside County, California, that uses thin-film CdTe-modules made by First Solar. As of November 2014, the 550 megawatt Topaz Solar Farm was the largest photovoltaic power plant in the world. This was surpassed by the 579 MW Solar Star complex. The current largest photovoltaic power station in the world is Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, in Gonghe County, Qinghai, China.