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Improving Wind Turbine Design with Springs and Seals
As wind-energy systems supply a greater percentage of power worldwide, minimizing downtime and decreasing maintenance and service is critical.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind capacity grew by 8% in 2014 and is forecast to increase by 12% in 2015 and by 13% in 2016. Bloomberg New Energy Finance further predicts that wind power will continue to grow with global installations adding a record 60 GW in 2015 alone. This is good news for the wind industry, but with growth comes increasing pressure to develop more reliable and efficient machines.
Wind turbines must withstand harsh internal and external conditions, including temperature and weather fluctuations, turbulence caused by wind gusts, variations in rotor speed, and repeated strokes of the blades. For the components that make up the turbine, durability is essential. Even the smallest components, such as seals and connectors, must endure changes in pressure and temperature while minimizing friction and wear inside the nacelle.
This article examines key considerations for selecting seals and connectors, and discusses the implications for wind-turbine designs.
Sealing and protecting turbine parts is a small job but an important one. When choosing a product, consider materials that offer a proven ability to last and withstand the tough conditions inside wind turbines.
• Friction and wear. When used in pitch-drive gears and other similar applications, seals need to facilitate a certain level of mobility. Because blades rotate millions of times, they must resist continuous wear. Low-friction sealing materials such as a polymer-filled polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) can minimize wear, providing excellent sealing performance and an extremely low dynamic coefficient of friction. An energized seal will ensure that the lip retains an ability to contact the housing, while securely and consistently sealing around the edges.
• Contact stress. Machined large-diameter seals have no weld, and therefore no hard spots or areas of potential weakness. This results in an ability to provide consistent contact pressures along the entire diameter of the sealing lip. Machined seals can also withstand much harsher conditions than welded ones, increasing service life of the seal and minimizing turbine downtime for maintenance or repairs.
• Shelf life. Longevity is an essential turbine design consideration, and this holds true for all of the turbine components. Minimizing the need for repairs or replacements of a seal means fewer maintenance visits and lower material costs. The design of a seal and the choice of material used will affect its shelf life. The length of time that seals can be stored is often dependent on the material. For example, materials such as PTFE can be stored for years without impacting their sealing performance.
• Thermal stability. In areas where ambient heat is excessive such as in a turbine’s gearbox, it’s important to use seals that provide protection and thermal stability. The seal should withstand high and low temperatures (up to 140°F and as low as to -65°F) without compromising the sealing contact stress.
Much like the requirements for proper sealing, connecting wind-turbine parts deserves special consideration for the best and safest results. Connecting presents specific conditions inside the small confines of a turbine nacelle. Tight spaces can make it difficult to achieve adequate torque and high vibration can easily loosen cables. In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to increased turbine temperatures, rising heat, and potentially hazardous conditions. When choosing connectors, consider these characteristics:
• Conductivity. In wind systems, it’s necessary to “dial in” the current-carrying capacity based on application need by specifying physical properties of contact (e.g. type of plating and wire diameter). Although copper braids are often used to carry current, other options such as canted coil springs placed on each end of a rod can improve current transmission. Because the spring maintains consistent contact forces on the conducting element, it can ultimately improve turbine performance.
• Heat safe. Connectors should allow maximum current management with minimal heat build-up in the turbine. Capacitors, transformers, generators, electrical controls, and transmission equipment are all subject to fire. To minimize risk in wind turbines, operating temperatures must remain at a minimum. Typical requirements include a heat run during which the heat rises to no more than 63°C. Operating temperatures should not exceed 110°C at 2900 A CC (amps of constant current). The short circuit current (SCC) must be able to withstand 1.6 kVA for two seconds. Canted coil springs help minimize heat-to-current carrying capacity in high-temperature conditions.
• Space-saving design. To ensure maximum efficiency, each connector should provide an excellent size-to-current capacity ratio, allowing designers the opportunity to decrease overall device size and build in more functionality where necessary.
As wind-energy systems supply a greater percentage of power worldwide, minimizing downtime and decreasing maintenance and service is critical. Conditions such as temperature, vibration, and corrosion demand components that are efficient and reliable even in tough environments.
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IEC 61400-12-1: Performance Measurements of Wind Turbines
By mid-2022, in the United States alone, the installed wind capacity totaled 139,145 megawatts . But wind power accomplishments are found throughout the globe. The tallest wind turbine in the world is located offshore in Denmark, and it stands 199 meters tall with a capacity of 7.2 MW.
The performance of wind turbines, regardless of their size, is influenced by several factors. According to IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022 – Wind energy generation systems – Part 12-1: Power performance measurements of electricity producing wind turbines , wind turbine power performance characteristics are determined by the measured power curve (the relationship between the wind speed and the wind turbine power output) and the estimated annual energy production (AEP).
What Is Measured Power Curve?
The measured power curve, as addressed in the IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022 standard, is determined by collecting measurements of meteorological variables and wind turbine signals simultaneously. These two characteristics together are the primary determinants of a wind turbine’s performance, and, by collecting data for a long enough period, users of the standard can establish a statistically significant database over a range of wind speeds and under varying wind and atmospheric conditions.
Meteorological variables touched upon in IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022 include wind shear, wind veer, wind speed, air density, and turbulence. The power curve, as per the standard, is climate-specific, and it abides by certain rules. For example, “the wind speed at a point in space is defined as the horizontal wind speed.”
Wind turbine signals include the power output of the rotor, and other turbine-specific considerations that are to be determined for the measured power curve.
What Is Annual Energy Production (AEP)?
The AEP is calculated by applying the measured power curve to reference wind speed frequency distributions. In adherence to IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022 , AEP should be calculated in two ways, one designated “AEP-measured,” and the other “AEP-extrapolated.” This value serves as an estimate of the total energy of a wind turbine throughout a one-year period.
What Is IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022?
The methods for determining the measured power curve and annual energy production, along with supplementary information and formulas for calculating the necessary values, are detailed in IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022 . The procedure covered in the document can be used for performance evaluation of specific wind turbines at specific locations, but it also can be used to make generic comparisons between different wind turbine models or different wind turbine settings when site-specific conditions and similar influences are considered. This methodology should be assisted by uncertainty sources and their effects.
The IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022 standard applies to the testing of wind turbines of all types and sizes connected to the electrical power network, but it can also be used to determine the power performance characteristics of small wind turbines when connected to either the electric power network or a battery bank.
Anticipated users of IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022 include wind turbine manufacturers, purchasers, operators, and planners or regulators.
Changes to IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022
IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022 updates and supersedes the second edition of the standard, which was published in 2017. This revision incorporates corrections from IEC 61400-12-1:2017/Cor.1:2019, IEC 61400-12-1:2017/Cor.2:2020 and IEC 61400-12-1:2017/Cor.3:2021.
Specifically, technical corrections have been applied to Equations (E.8), (E.44) and (E.17). A further technical correction to Equation (E.45) has been made to correct inconsistent units in the components of the summation.
IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2022 – Wind energy generation systems – Part 12-1: Power performance measurements of electricity producing wind turbines is available on the ANSI Webstore. Anyone in need of it and the other wind turbine standards in the IEC 61400-12 series might be interested in the IEC 61400 – Wind Turbines Package .
Changes to IEC 61400-12-1 Ed. 2.0 b:2017
The second edition of this standard was a significant revision, updating the first edition of the document that was published in 2005. This revision included the following significant technical changes:
- new definition of wind speed
- inclusion of wind shear and wind veer
- revision of air density correction
- revision of site calibration
- revision to definition of power curve
- interpolation to bin centre method
- revision of obstacle model
- clarification of topography requirements
- new annex on mast induced flow distortion
- revision to anemometer classifications
- inclusion of ultrasonic anemometers
- cold climate annex added
- database A changed to special database
- revision of uncertainty annex
- inclusion of remote sensing
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Windpower Engineering & Development
How canted coil springs improve turbine seals and connectors
By Michelle Froese | February 17, 2016
By Jim Harty | Global Market Manager Energy Bal Seal Engineering, Inc.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind capacity grew by 8% in 2014 and is forecast to increase by 12% in 2015 and by 13% in 2016. Bloomberg New Energy Finance further predicts that wind power will continue to grow with global installations adding a record 60 GW in 2015 alone. This is good news for the wind industry, but with growth comes increasing pressure to develop more reliable and more efficient machines.
Wind turbines must withstand harsh internal and external conditions, including temperature and weather fluctuations, turbulence caused by wind gusts, variations in rotor speed, and repeated strokes of the blades. For the components that make up the turbine, durability is essential. Even the smallest components, such as seals and connectors, must endure changes in pressure and temperature while minimizing friction and wear inside the nacelle.
The de-rating curves are for an 8-mm Bal Spring canted coil springs in electrical contact element applications. Tests were performed to DIN EN 60512-5-2 specifications, and data are available upon request for other standard pin sizes.
With a number of products available on the market, selecting the right seals and connectors for a turbine is a challenge. Here’s what you need to know.
Proper sealing Sealing and protecting turbine parts is a small job but an important one. When choosing a product, consider materials that offer a proven ability to last and withstand the tough conditions inside wind turbines.
Connecting cables. A Bal Spring canted coil spring is used to connect cables running vertically along interior wall at about 20-m intervals in a 100-m tower. The springs enable compact, space-saving electrical packaging with high-current capacities. They are used in connectors that provide for easy replacement of cable sections.
- Friction and wear. When used in pitch-drive gears and other similar applications, seals need to facilitate a certain level of mobility. Because blades rotate millions of times, they must resist continuous wear. Low-friction sealing materials such as a polymer-filled polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) can minimize wear, providing excellent sealing performance and an extremely low dynamic coefficient of friction. An energized seal will ensure that the lip retains an ability to contact the housing, while securely and consistently sealing around the edges.
- Chemical and media compatibility . For proper protection, it’s important to choose a sealing material that exhibits chemical compatibility with the greases and lubricants commonly used in the turbine. PTFE is chemically inert and offers high resistance to solvents, chemicals, and other materials over time. By contrast, materials such as elastomers struggle with long-term exposure to UV rays.
- Contact stress. Machined large-diameter seals have no weld, and therefore they have no hard spots or areas of potential weakness. This results in an ability to provide consistent contact pressures along the entire diameter of the sealing lip. Machined seals can also withstand much harsher conditions than welded ones, increasing service life of the seal and minimizing turbine downtime for maintenance or repairs.
A seal for pitch-drive wheels. A Bal Seal spring-energized seal used in pitch-drive gear helps protect the bearing by keeping debris out and clean lubricants in.
- Thermal stability. In areas where ambient heat is excessive such as in a turbine’s gearbox, it’s important to use seals that provide protection and thermal stability. The seal should withstand high and low temperatures (up to 140°F and as low as to -65°F) without compromising the sealing contact stress.
Connecting turbines Much like the requirements for proper sealing, connecting wind-turbine parts deserve special consideration for the best and safest results. Connecting presents specific conditions inside the small confines of a turbine nacelle. Tight spaces can make it difficult to achieve adequate torque and high vibration can easily loosen cables. In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to increased turbine temperatures, rising heat, and potentially hazardous conditions.
When choosing connectors, consider these characteristics:
A spring for slip-ring applications. The Bal Spring canted coil spring in a slip-ring application is located inside the generator near the back of the nacelle. The spring ensures electrical contact over varying thermal expansion conditions by compensating for misalignment caused by thermal expansion.
- Latching and locking forces. Connectors should provide wind-turbine engineers with a means of dictating forces with which connections are made and broken. Fasteners such as canted coil springs offer controllable mating and unmating forces. Such controlled forces make it easy to connect and disconnect control, and provide an alternative to traditional technologies, such as threaded connections that require tools.
- Conductivity . In wind systems, it’s necessary to “dial in” the current-carrying capacity based on application need by specifying physical properties of contact (e.g., type of plating and wire diameter). Although copper braids are often used to carry current, other options such as canted coil springs placed on each end of a rod can improve current transmission. Because the spring maintains consistent contact forces on the conducting element, it can ultimately improve turbine performance.
- Heat safe. Connectors should allow maximum current management with minimal heat build-up in the turbine. Capacitors, transformers, generators, electrical controls, and transmission equipment are all subject to fire. To minimize risk in wind turbines, operating temperatures must remain at a minimum. Typical requirements include a heat run during which the heat rise can be no more than 63° Operating temperatures should not exceed 110°C at 2900 A CC [amps of constant current]. The short circuit current (SCC) must be able to withstand 1.6 kVA for two seconds. Canted coil springs help minimize heat-to-current carrying capacity in high-temperature conditions.
- Compression resistant. It’s important that connectors in wind turbines be resistant to compression set, which refers to the permanent deformation of a material after release of stress or force. They should be comprised of material with physical properties that ensure consistent, multi-point contact for maximum efficiency of current flow. A resistance to compression set provides for consistent service over thousands of cycles.
- Space-saving design. To ensure maximum efficiency, each connector should provide an excellent size-to-current capacity ratio, allowing designers the opportunity to decrease overall device size to allow them to build in more functionality where necessary.
About The Author
September 1, 2016 at 11:52 pm
More information about Moflon slip ring, please click: http://www.moflon.com
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How wind turbines work
Wind turbines use blades to collect the wind’s kinetic energy. Wind flows over the blades creating lift (similar to the effect on airplane wings), which causes the blades to turn. The blades are connected to a drive shaft that turns an electric generator, which produces (generates) electricity.
Diagram of wind turbine components
Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy (public domain)
Click to enlarge
Electricity generation with wind
The amount of wind electricity generation has grown significantly in the past 30 years. Advances in wind energy technology have decreased the cost of producing electricity from wind. Government requirements and financial incentives for renewable energy in the United States and in other countries have contributed to growth in wind power.
Total annual U.S. electricity generation from wind energy increased from about 6 billion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2000 to about 380 billion kWh in 2021. In 2021, wind turbines were the source of about 9.2% of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation. Utility scale includes facilities with at least one megawatt (1,000 kilowatts) of electricity generation capacity.
Last updated: March 30, 2022, with most recent available annual data at the time of update from the Electric Power Monthly , February 2022.
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Scientists and engineers are using energy from the wind to generate electricity. Wind energy, or wind power, is created using a wind turbine.
Earth Science, Climatology
As renewable energy technology continues to advance and grow in popularity, wind farms like this one have become an increasingly common sight along hills, fields, or even offshore in the ocean.
Photograph by inga spence / Alamy Stock Photo
Anything that moves has kinetic energy , and scientists and engineers are using the wind’s kinetic energy to generate electricity. Wind energy , or wind power , is created using a wind turbine , a device that channels the power of the wind to generate electricity.
The wind blows the blades of the turbine , which are attached to a rotor. The rotor then spins a generator to create electricity. There are two types of wind turbines : the horizontal - axis wind turbines (HAWTs) and vertical - axis wind turbines (VAWTs). HAWTs are the most common type of wind turbine . They usually have two or three long, thin blades that look like an airplane propeller. The blades are positioned so that they face directly into the wind. VAWTs have shorter, wider curved blades that resemble the beaters used in an electric mixer.
Small, individual wind turbines can produce 100 kilowatts of power, enough to power a home. Small wind turbines are also used for places like water pumping stations. Slightly larger wind turbines sit on towers that are as tall as 80 meters (260 feet) and have rotor blades that extend approximately 40 meters (130 feet) long. These turbines can generate 1.8 megawatts of power. Even larger wind turbines can be found perched on towers that stand 240 meters (787 feet) tall have rotor blades more than 162 meters (531 feet) long. These large turbines can generate anywhere from 4.8 to 9.5 megawatts of power.
Once the electricity is generated, it can be used, connected to the electrical grid, or stored for future use. The United States Department of Energy is working with the National Laboratories to develop and improve technologies, such as batteries and pumped-storage hydropower so that they can be used to store excess wind energy. Companies like General Electric install batteries along with their wind turbines so that as the electricity is generated from wind energy, it can be stored right away.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are 57,000 wind turbines in the United States, both on land and offshore. Wind turbines can be standalone structures, or they can be clustered together in what is known as a wind farm . While one turbine can generate enough electricity to support the energy needs of a single home, a wind farm can generate far more electricity, enough to power thousands of homes. Wind farms are usually located on top of a mountain or in an otherwise windy place in order to take advantage of natural winds.
The largest offshore wind farm in the world is called the Walney Extension. This wind farm is located in the Irish Sea approximately 19 kilometers (11 miles) west of the northwest coast of England. The Walney Extension covers a massive area of 149 square kilometers (56 square miles), which makes the wind farm bigger than the city of San Francisco, California, or the island of Manhattan in New York. The grid of 87 wind turbines stands 195 meters (640 feet) tall, making these offshore wind turbines some of the largest wind turbines in the world. The Walney Extension has the potential to generate 659 megawatts of power, which is enough to supply 600,000 homes in the United Kingdom with electricity.
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21 Palm Springs Windmills Facts: The Most Sustainable Energy!
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If you have ever driven down to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley of California, you did not miss the thousands of windmills or wind turbines dotting the desert landscape.
Converting wind energy into mechanical energy, these windmills are located in the San Gorgonio Pass, sandwiched between Mount San Gorgonio and Mount San Jacinto. Formally known as the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, this region is popularly referred to as the Palm Spring Windmills.
The first windmill was built in 1962. However, that project did not last long, and it wasn't until 1982 that an actual wind farm was created here. Each windmill measures several hundred feet, and its blades play an important role as a generator of clean energy. A windmill requires a large area that is regularly quite windy to function.
The functioning of a wind turbine is relatively easy. The wind causes the windmill's blades to rotate, which turns the rotor and shaft inside, to generate electricity. On the desert floor of the San Gorgonio Pass, the windmills are built in addition to solar panels to make use of the energy produced by the sun. With increasing research into sustainable sources of energy for a better future, these windmills in California serve as a lifeline for the whole of the United States. There are 2700 windmills in Palm Springs .
It is also possible to visit these windmills in California and take a tour of the desert region. Such a visit is highly educational, as it will fill one with the basics of a windmill and how it can sustain societal growth and development.
To learn more about the iconic windmills of Palm Springs, keep reading! You can also check out facts about energy and where does light come from.
Archives: Palm Springs Windmills
The historical archives of the Palm Springs windmills make for a fascinating study. These windmills or wind turbines are found along the eastern slope of the San Gorgonio Pass. Several companies own the wind farms here, first built in the 1980s, making these wind turbines part of the oldest wind farm in the United States.
The first person to have come up with the idea of creating electricity using wind as the source in the San Gorgonio Pass region was Drew R. Oliver. Oliver himself was the owner of Oliver Electric Power Corporation. So, as early as 1962, Oliver built a turbine near the region of Whitewater, which could be used to generate electricity from wind. Subsequently, Oliver decided to gather enough funds to create enough wind turbines that would be a form of clean energy supply to the entirety of Palm Springs. Alas, Drew R. Oliver could not realize his dreams. His sole wind turbine, a point of attraction, was eventually sold off in 1942 as scrap.
Twenty years later, in 1982, formal research was done into the idea of developing wind energy in the San Gorgonio Pass. The study was titled 'San Gorgonia Wind Resources Study EIR' and was passed off to the local and central government bodies. This document became the basis of the approval of the construction of wind power in this region.
The first wind farm in the San Gorgonia Pass was made by Fred Noble, who was the President and the founder of Wintec Energy. Initially, his energy company constructed 212 wind turbines on an area of land that Noble himself owned. Eventually, these 212 wind turbines were replaced by 35 wind turbines of much larger magnitude, further replaced by five even larger machines. In present times, Noble has sold off most of his wind turbines, but he still owns the land they were built on. So, his company leases out these lands to different energy companies to develop their own wind turbines.
Overall, in the 1980s, above 1600 wind turbines were built in this region, contributing massively to wind development and the modernization of renewable energy production. It is also essential to mention that the locals of Palm Springs were against the construction of these windmills. A city council member compared the construction of these structures to strip mining, which took place in places like West Virginia. However, over the years, people did understand the importance of the Palm Springs windmills and how they are needed for a better future.
Governance: Palm Springs Windmills
Several governing bodies are responsible for the maintenance of the Palm Springs windmills. Let us now take a quick look into them!
At the highest level, the United States Department of Energy is responsible for creating policies related to the energy production and conservation of the entire country. Hence, the windmills at Palm Springs fall under their purview. One of the most notable projects of the Department of Energy or DoE was the creation of the windmill named North Wind 250. This windmill has two blades and functions efficiently even in high wind situations.
At a state level, the California Energy Commission is also responsible for how the Palm Springs windmills function. The main aim of this commission is to reduce the use of fossil fuels as much as possible, and hence, wind energy has become a reliable alternative. The commission has estimated a higher increase in wind energy output in the coming years. Wintec Energy owns Plam Springs.
There is also the California Wind Energy Association, based in the state, with members involved in the windmill industry.
Sustainable Development: Palm Springs Windmills
Needless to say, when it comes to the generation of renewable energy, wind power is unparalleled. Even though the Palm Spring Windmills were predominantly set up in the 1980s, the wind farms there are some of the essential energy producers of the region, contributing to sustainable development. Some statistics about wind energy will surely blow your mind. In the United States, wind power is the most significant source of renewable energy production. All over the world, wind energy comes in second place for the production of electricity in a sustainable manner.
In the San Gorgonio Pass, nearly 2300 wind turbines cover the region. Most of these wind turbines were created years ago, in the 1980s. In general, one windmill has 30 to 35 years of life longevity. Hence, many of the turbines in this region are stagnant and standing still. One of the first things that need to be done to ensure the landscape supports sustainable development is clearing off these older turbines. All in all, nearly 434,491 hp (324 MW) equivalent of turbines needs to be replaced in the region in the near future.
Additionally, it is much more challenging to operate old turbines, so once a windmill stops working, there are hardly any efforts to get it back up and running again. So, the entire wind farm of San Gorgonio Pass is littered with dysfunctional and old turbines that should be replaced by newer models sooner rather than later. The newer windmills are much more efficient at producing energy and do not require as much maintenance as the older ones.
Furthermore, the various agencies are also planning to install bigger and more-efficient windmills that can replace the smaller ones to produce the same amount of energy, thus, making Palm Springs visually cleaner and more attractive. It would also be a brilliant idea to begin the construction of more solar panels in the region. These solar panels could aid in generating more energy when the winds aren't strong enough to generate power from the wind turbines.
Energy Generation: Palm Springs Windmills
You must wonder how the San Gorgonio Pass became the site for the construction of the first-ever wind farm and how wind energy is created. Continue reading to find the answer to all these queries and more!
The wind farm situated in the San Gorgonio Pass stretches over a vast area and is bordered by Mount San Gorgonio and Mount San Jacinto to its north and south, respectively. The San Gorgonio Pass resembles a transitional zone between Mediterranean and desert climates. This results in the Pass being one of the windiest places in the country; scientifically speaking, the wind is a kind of solar energy formed due to the heating of the surface by the sun.
The strength of the winds in the San Gorgonio Pass is so strong due to the difference in pressure in the Mediterranean and desert climates. On average, the wind speed in this region is between 15-20 mph (24-32 kph), with the highest wind speeds occurring during the summer months. Furthermore, the Pass has quite a narrow width, so the cool air rushing in is further compressed, making it stronger. All these reasons make this Pass the ideal location for constructing windmills.
Coming to the turbine, the earlier wind turbine of Palm Springs had four blades, but later research showed that three-bladed turbines are more efficient. Even though a wind turbine may look like an intimidating structure, its functioning for energy generation is quite simple; The passing wind results in the rotation of the turbine's blades. These blades are massive, sometimes as large as a football field. For some of the larger windmills, along with the blades, the turbine has a height of 410 ft (125 m). Each of these blades is connected to a rotor, which in turn is connected to a shaft. The movement of the rotors results in the rotation of shafts, which produces energy. Thus, this is how wind power is transformed into electricity. Each windmill costs about $300000 and can produce 402 hp (300 kW) of energy.
Each of the newer windmills requires about 13 mph (21 kph) speeds to act as a power generator. Interestingly, windmills are designed so that if the wind speed is more than 55 mph (88.5 kph), the turbines shut off automatically. Altogether, the turbines of Palm Spring are massive generators of power, producing nearly 2 million MMBtu (600 million kWh) of energy combined every year. This much energy is enough to power the entirety of the Coachella Valley and, of course, the Palm Springs.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created many interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for palm springs windmills facts, then why not take a look at 2 Examples Of Kinetic Energy or types of kinetic energy.
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June starts hurricane season, an unsettling time for some people living near our nation’s shorelines. For the next 6 months, communities will be on watch for severe storms and high winds that could potentially knock out power or damage homes and businesses.
Strong winds also put America’s growing fleet of wind turbines to the test. Wind power recently surpassed 82,000 megawatts of total installed capacity, making it the nation’s number one source of renewable generation capacity.
You would think that during hurricane season, more wind means more energy, right? It only works that way up to a point. Wind turbines need to protect themselves just as communities do during tropical storms and hurricanes . To understand what happens, let’s first discuss a wind turbine’s power curve.
The Power Curve
The diagram below shows the power output of a turbine against steady wind speeds. The cut-in speed (typically between 6 and 9 mph) is when the blades start rotating and generating power. As wind speeds increase, more electricity is generated until it reaches a limit, known as the rated speed. This is the point that the turbine produces its maximum, or rated power. As the wind speed continues to increase, the power generated by the turbine remains constant until it eventually hits a cut-out speed (varies by turbine) and shuts down to prevent unnecessary strain on the rotor .
Figure Credit: Sarah Harman
Here’s how it works.
Measuring wind speed
Every wind turbine has an anemometer that measures wind speed and a wind vane to keep track of the wind’s direction. See if you can find them toward the end of the scene of this 360° Wind Turbine Tour video .
When the anemometer registers wind speeds higher than 55 mph (cut-out speed varies by turbine), it triggers the wind turbine to automatically shut off.
Feathering the blades
When wind speeds surpass a modern utility-scale turbine’s rated wind speed, the blades begin to feather , or point into the wind to reduce their surface area. In some instances, although not common, the blades can even be locked down to ride out severe gusts.
Despite this shut off, the yaw drive , located in the wind turbine’s nacelle , continuously points the rotor into the wind, even as weather patterns shift as they pass through.
Monitor and resume
Once the anemometer measures speeds at or below the turbine’s cut-out speed (in this case 55 mph), the blades unfeather and resume normal operation, providing renewable energy back to the grid.
Block Island’s First Test
This shut down process was on full display at Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm —America’s first offshore wind farm—when winter storm Stella rolled through in March. All five turbines were operating at full capacity (30 megawatts), except for a brief window of several hours when wind speeds exceeded 55 mph.
Although this was not a hurricane, it does demonstrate the shutdown process. The wind farm sustained wind speeds higher than 70 mph during the automatic shutdown and successfully powered back up to serve Block Island after the winds diminished.
Check out our animation: How a Wind Turbine Works
Heavy seas engulf the Block Island Wind Farm- the first US offshore wind farm. The five Halide 6MW turbines were installed by Deepwater Wind and began producing power in 2016. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)
Wind Turbine Control Methods
Key concepts, control methods, control strategies.
Wind Turbine Operation
A wind turbine is a revolving machine that converts the kinetic energy from the wind into mechanical energy. This mechanical energy is then converted into electricity that is sent to a power grid. The turbine components responsible for these energy conversions are the rotor and the generator.
The rotor is the area of the turbine that consists of both the turbine hub and blades. As wind strikes the turbine’s blades, the hub rotates due to aerodynamic forces. This rotation is then sent through the transmission system to decrease the revolutions per minute. The transmission system consists of the main bearing, high-speed shaft, gearbox, and low-speed shaft. The ratio of the gearbox determines the rotation division and the rotation speed that the generator sees. For example, if the ratio of the gearbox is N to 1, then the generator sees the rotor speed divided by N. This rotation is finally sent to the generator for mechanical-to-electrical conversion.
Figure 1 shows the major components of a wind turbine: gearbox, generator, hub, rotor, low-speed shaft, high-speed shaft, and the main bearing. The purpose of the hub is to connect the blades’ servos that adjust the blade direction to the low-speed shaft. The rotor is the area of the turbine that consists of both the hub and blades. The components are all housed together in a structure called the nacelle.
Figure 1 . The Major Components of a Wind Turbine
Angle of Attack
The amount of surface area available for the incoming wind is key to increasing aerodynamic forces on the rotor blades. The angle at which the blade is adjusted is referred to as the angle of attack, α. This angle is measured with respect to the incoming wind direction and the chord line of the blade. There is also a critical angle of attack, α critical , where air no longer streams smoothly over the blade’s upper surface. Figure 2 shows the critical angle of attack with respect to the blade.
Figure 2. The Critical Angle of Attack (α critical ) with Respect to the Blade
Power and Efficiency
This section explains what affects the power extracted from the wind and the efficiency of this process. Consider Figure 3 as a model of the turbine’s interaction with the wind. This diagram indicates that wind exists on either side of the turbine, and the proper balance between rotational speed and the velocity of wind are critical to regulate performance. The balance between rotational speed and wind velocity, referred to as the tip speed ratio, is calculated using Equation 1.
Equation 1. Calculating the Tip Speed Ratio
Equation 2. The power coefficient is calculated as the ratio of actual to ideal extracted power.
Equation 3.You can adjust the by controlling the angle of attack, α, and the tip speed ratio.
Finally, you can calculate the usable power from the wind using Equation 5. From this equation, you can see that the main drivers for usable power are the blade length and wind speed.
Equation 5. Calculating Usable Power from the Wind
Figure 3. Model of the Turbine’s Interaction with the Wind
The Power Curve
It is important to understand the relationship between power and wind speed to determine the required control type, optimization, or limitation. The power curve, a plot you can use for this purpose, specifies how much power you can extract from the incoming wind. Figure 4 contains an ideal wind turbine power curve.
Figure 4. Ideal Wind Turbine Power Curve
The cut-in and cut-out speeds are the operating limits of the turbine. By staying in this range, you ensure that the available energy is above the minimum threshold and structural health is maintained. The rated power, a point provided by the manufacturer, takes both energy and cost into consideration. Also, the rated wind speed is chosen because speeds above this point are rare. Typically, you can assume that a turbine design that extracts the bulk of energy above the rated wind speed is not cost-effective.
From Figure 4, you can see that the power curve is split into three distinct regions. Because Region I consists of low wind speeds and is below the rated turbine power, the turbine is run at the maximum efficiency to extract all power. In other words, the turbine controls with optimization in mind. On the other hand, Region III consists of high wind speeds and is at the rated turbine power. The turbine then controls with limitation of the generated power in mind when operating in this region. Finally, Region II is a transition region mainly concerned with keeping rotor torque and noise low.
You can use different control methods to either optimize or limit power output. You can control a turbine by controlling the generator speed, blade angle adjustment, and rotation of the entire wind turbine. Blade angle adjustment and turbine rotation are also known as pitch and yaw control, respectively. A visual representation of pitch and yaw adjustment is shown in Figures 5 and 6.
Figure 5. Pitch Adjustment Figure 6. Yaw Adjustment
The purpose of pitch control is to maintain the optimum blade angle to achieve certain rotor speeds or power output. You can use pitch adjustment to stall and furl, two methods of pitch control. By stalling a wind turbine, you increase the angle of attack, which causes the flat side of the blade to face further into the wind. Furling decreases the angle of attack, causing the edge of the blade to face the oncoming wind. Pitch angle adjustment is the most effective way to limit output power by changing aerodynamic force on the blade at high wind speeds.
Yaw refers to the rotation of the entire wind turbine in the horizontal axis. Yaw control ensures that the turbine is constantly facing into the wind to maximize the effective rotor area and, as a result, power. Because wind direction can vary quickly, the turbine may misalign with the oncoming wind and cause power output losses. You can approximate these losses with the following equation:
EQ 6: ∆P=α cos(ε) Where ∆P is the lost power and ε is the yaw error angle
The final type of control deals with the electrical subsystem. You can achieve this dynamic control with power electronics, or, more specifically, electronic converters that are coupled to the generator. The two types of generator control are stator and rotor. The stator and rotor are the stationary and nonstationary parts of a generator, respectively. In each case, you disconnect the stator or rotor from the grid to change the synchronous speed of the generator independently of the voltage or frequency of the grid. Controlling the synchronous generator speed is the most effective way to optimize maximum power output at low wind speeds.
Figure 7 shows a system-level layout of a wind energy conversion system and the signals used. Notice that control is most effective by adjusting pitch angle and controlling the synchronous speed of the generator.
Figure 7. System-Level Layout of a Wind Energy System
Recall that controlling the pitch of the blade and speed of the generator are the most effective methods to adjust output power. The following control strategies use pitch and generator speed control to manage turbine functionality throughout the power curve: fixed-speed fixed-pitch, fixed-speed variable-pitch, variable-speed fixed-pitch, and variable-speed variable-pitch. Figure 8 shows the power curves for different control strategies explained below, with variable-speed variable-pitch, VS-VP, being the ideal curve.
Figure 8. Power Curves for Different Control Strategies (Variable-speed variable-pitch, VS-VP, is the ideal curve.)
Fixed-speed fixed-pitch (FS-FP) is the one configuration where it is impossible to improve performance with active control. In this design, the turbine’s generator is directly coupled to the power grid, causing the generator speed to lock to the power line frequency and fix the rotational speed. These turbines are regulated using passive stall methods at high wind speeds. The gearbox ratio selection becomes important for this passive control because it ensures that the rated power is not exceeded. Figure 8 shows the power curve for FS-FP operation.
From the figure, it is apparent that the actual power does not match the ideal power, implying that there is lower energy capture. Notice that the turbine operates at maximum efficiency only at one wind speed in the low-speed region. The rated power of the turbine is achieved only at one wind speed as well. This implies poor power regulation as a result of constrained operations.
Fixed-speed variable-pitch (FS-VP) configuration operates at a fixed pitch angle below the rated wind speed and continuously adjusts the angle above the rated wind speed. To clarify, fixed-speed operation implies a maximum output power at one wind speed. You can use both feather and stall pitch control methods in this configuration to limit power. Keep in mind that feathering takes a significant amount of control design and stalling increases unwanted thrust force as stall increases. Figure 8 shows the power curve for FS-VP using either feather or stall control.
Below the rated wind speed, the FS-VP turbine has a near optimum efficiency around Region II. Exceeding the rated wind speed, the pitch angles are continuously changed, providing little to no loss in power.
Variable-speed fixed-pitch (VS-FP) configuration continuously adjusts the rotor speed relative to the wind speed through power electronics controlling the synchronous speed of the generator. This type of control assumes that the generator is from the grid so that the generator’s rotor and drive-train are free to rotate independently of grid frequency. Fixed-pitch relies heavily on the blade design to limit power through passive stalling. Figure 8 shows the power curve for VS-FP.
Figure 8 shows that power efficiency is maximized at low wind speeds, and you can achieve rated turbine power only at one wind speed. Passive stall regulation plays a major role in not achieving the rated power and can be attributed to poor power regulation above the rated wind speed. In lower wind speed cases, VS-FP can capture more energy and improve power quality.
Variable-speed variable-pitch (VS-VP) configuration is a derivation of VS-FP and FS-VP. Operating below the rated wind speed, variable speed and fixed pitch are used to maximize energy capture and increase power quality. Operating above the rated wind speed, fixed speed and variable pitch permit efficient power regulation at the rated power. VS-VP is the only control strategy that theoretically achieves the ideal power curve shown in Figure 8.
This document covered some essential wind energy concepts, such as the angle of attack and the power coefficient, as well as different control methods and strategies. Pitch, Yaw, and Rotational Speed Control were the main control methods used to optimize or limit the power extracted from the wind. Wind turbine control is essential for optimal performance, safe operation, and structural stability.
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Wind Energy Basics
Wind is caused when the earth's surface is heated unevenly by the sun. Wind energy can be used to generate electricity.
Wind turbines, like windmills, are mounted on a tower to capture the most energy. At 100 feet (30 meters) or more above ground, they can take advantage of the faster and less turbulent wind. Turbines catch the wind's energy with their propeller-like blades. Usually, two or three blades are mounted on a shaft to form a rotor .
A blade acts much like an airplane wing. When the wind blows, a pocket of low-pressure air forms on the downwind side of the blade. The low-pressure air pocket then pulls the blade toward it, causing the rotor to turn. This is called lift . The force of the lift is actually much stronger than the wind's force against the front side of the blade, which is called drag . The combination of lift and drag causes the rotor to spin like a propeller, and the turning shaft spins a generator to make electricity.
NREL's wind energy research is primarily carried out at the Flatirons Campus , a site near Boulder, Colorado.
Utility scale wind turbines at the Cedar Creek Wind Farm in Grover, Colorado. Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL
VolturnUS Floating Offshore Wind Turbine with Windfloat Semi-Submersible Floating Platform, University of Maine, part of the DeepCWind Consortium. Photo from University of Maine
Land-Based Wind Energy
Wind turbines can be used as stand-alone applications, or they can be connected to a utility power grid or even combined with a photovoltaic (solar cell) system. For utility-scale (megawatt-sized) sources of wind energy, a large number of wind turbines are usually built close together to form a wind plant , also referred to as a wind farm . Several electricity providers today use wind plants to supply power to their customers.
Stand-alone wind turbines are typically used for water pumping or communications. However, homeowners, farmers, and ranchers in windy areas can also use wind turbines as a way to cut their electric bills.
Distributed Wind Energy
Small wind systems also have potential as distributed energy resources. Distributed energy resources refer to a variety of small, modular power-generating technologies that can be combined to improve the operation of the electricity delivery system. For more information about distributed wind, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Energy Technologies Office .
Offshore Wind Energy
Offshore wind energy is a relatively new industry in the United States. America's first offshore wind farm, located in Rhode Island, off the coast of Block Island, powered up in December 2016. The Energy Department's Wind Vision Report shows that by 2050, offshore wind could be available in all coastal regions nationwide.
For more information about wind energy, visit the following resources:
Wind Energy Basics U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Wind Energy Maps and Data DOE's WINDExchange
How Wind Turbines Work U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Small Wind Electric Systems U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Savers Program
American Wind Energy Association
Energy Kids Wind Basics U.S. Energy Information Administration Energy Kids
- Editorial Guidelines
Is a Home Wind Turbine Right for You?
- Chapman University
- Renewable Energy
- Fossil Fuels
What Is a Home Wind Turbine?
Is a home wind turbine right for me, other options for green energy.
- Frequently Asked Questions
Home wind turbines are a smaller version of the large turbines you see on the side of the highway generating clean electrical energy from the wind’s kinetic energy. While commercial wind farms use machines whose blades can create a diameter of 130 feet—about as long as a football field—a home system is much more condensed.
If your area is windy enough enough, home wind turbines can help lower electricity bills by as much as 50-90% and provide an uninterrupted power source through extended utility outages—all with zero emissions and pollution. Not only are they one of the most cost-effective home-based renewable energy systems, home turbines can be used for other applications such as pumping water for irrigation, which can be helpful in farms or ranches.
A wind turbine has a blade, a pole, and a generator. The blade works a bit like an airplane wing: as blowing air passes by both sides of the blade, its unique shape causes the wind pressure to become uneven, making the blade spin. This is where technology surpasses the traditional windmill.
A weather vane on the top connects to a computer to keep the machine positioned to run as efficiently as possible. The blades only turn about 18 revolutions per minute—not fast enough to generate electricity on its own—so they are attached to a rotor shaft and a series of gears that help increase the rotation to about 1,800 revolutions per minute.
Since the higher up you go, the windier it is as a general rule of thumb, so larger turbines can pack a hefty punch when it comes to energy generation. Smaller properties that only need to power residential homes or small businesses may benefit from a small wind turbine, especially in rural areas that are not already connected to an energy grid (though home wind systems can also connect to an existing electric grid through your power provider).
Home wind turbines require a specific kind of planning and maintenance to be successful and a significant upfront investment. Home wind turbines should be installed by a qualified professional, and are not a DIY job. Most importantly, you’ll need to find out if small wind electric systems are even allowed in your area.
Potential buyers should estimate their site’s wind resource and research potential neighborhood zoning issues. You'll want to consider monthly electrical usage, the rate you pay for electricity, and the amount of energy the wind turbine is estimated to generate.
It's also a good idea to compare the installation of home wind generation with other clean energy options, like rooftop solar and efficiency upgrades, to make sure you're getting the best value for your investment.
Check Out Your Property
Start by contacting your local building inspector, your board of supervisors, or your planning board—they’ll be able to give you information on requirements and whether or not you’ll need a building permit. If you have neighbors or a homeowners association, they may be concerned about the noise level or aesthetics of a wind turbine, as well, so be prepared with objective data in order to address these issues.
Information like height limits (a majority of zoning ordinances have a 35-foot height limit for structures) will come in handy while shopping around for home turbines. According to the United States Energy Department, most residential turbines have a sound level that is just slightly above ambient wind noise, and “while the sound of the wind turbine may be picked out of surrounding noise if a conscious effort is made to hear it, a residential-sized wind turbine is not a significant source of noise under most wind conditions.”
Estimate Your Wind Resources
Local terrain influences wind levels more than most of us realize. Just because it feels windy in one spot doesn’t mean an area a few miles away is just as blustery. A great place to start your research is a wind resource map , available on the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website and organized by state. You can also consult wind speed data from a nearby airport or see if there is a local small wind system with annual output and wind speed data available.
For the most accurate measurement, direct monitoring by a professional wind resource system at your site can take readings at the specific elevation on the top of the tower where the wind turbine would be installed. These are pricey, however, and may cost between $600 and $1,200.
Do the Math
Find out if a home wind energy system is economically viable by taking a look at your current electrical costs and compare them to the overall cost of things like installation, output, savings, and your return on investment. Use the Department of Energy’s small wind consumer guides to help estimate the costs of purchasing the machine, how much you stand to save by making the switch, and how long it will take to regain your capital investment. A professional home turbine installer should be able to help estimate your costs as well.
The costs to install a free-standing home wind turbine vary depending on the location, output, and size of the machine. In the San Francisco area, for example, a small wind system can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $40,000 depending on the kW size. A standard single-family home in the region uses just over 5,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which would require a turbine in the 1-5 kilowatt range.
If your home or property isn't wind-friendly, there are other options to get clean energy. Solar panels are the most popular home-based technology for clean energy, and there may be tax incentives to offset the cost of installation. Hybrid solar and wind systems are gaining momentum in the United States. Treehugger has a guide to the best solar panel installation companies to help make the process easier.
Another option for some properties is geothermal heat pumps. Dandelion is one company that offers homeowners geothermal heating and cooling solutions, and currently operates in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
If your home is not suitable for either wind or solar, it may still be possible to switch to clean energy via your utility. You can contact your utility company and ask if there are any renewable or clean energy options available. If you live in an area with competitive electricity markets, you may be able to switch to an energy provider or electric utility company that uses clean energy, such as Green Mountain Power. Usually switching to one of these programs does mean paying a small additional premium, but this extra cost helps pay for building more clean energy resources.
Expect to pay $4,000 to $8,000 per rate kilowatt. The average residential wind turbine system, without incentives, costs about $50,000, but less comprehensive options exist.
The average American house uses about 900 kWh of electricity per month. In a location that gets an average wind speed of 14 mph, three 1.5-kW wind turbines would be needed to power the average house.
Yes, the federal government provides tax credits for installing residential wind turbines. The Production Tax Credit provides $0.01 to $0.02 per kWh for the first 10 years. Up-to-date information on tax credits and incentives can be found at WINDExchange.energy.gov .
" Planning a Small Wind Electric System ." U.S. Department of Energy .
" Buying a Small Wind Turbine, a Consumer Guide and FAQ ." SF Environment.
Energy Saver. “ Buying Clean Electricity. ” U.S. Department of Energy.
"H ow much electricity does an American home use? " U.S. Energy Information Administration . 2021.
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Science is Knowledge
Wind patterns - and electricity generation - vary across the seasons
The nation’s wind farms perform at their best during the spring and their worst during the mid-to-late summer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). This variability stems from the fact that wind patterns vary not only by region, but also by the time of the year. In turn, the amount of power generated by wind farms can change considerably from season to season.
- By Melissa C. Lott on December 30, 2015
The nation’s wind farms perform at their best during the spring and their worst during the mid-to-late summer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
This variability stems from the fact that wind patterns change not only across regions, but also by the time of the year. In turn, the amount of power generated by wind farms can change considerably from season to season.
The amount of electricity that is generated by a power plant compared to the total potential generation is called its “capacity factor”. For example, if a power plant operated 30% of the year but could theoretically have operated 100% of the time, you would say that it has a 30% capacity factor.
According to the EIA, capacity factors for wind power in the United States typically rise or are flat from January through April, fall through August or September, and then increase from September/October to December.
This pattern is a generalization, however, with notable differences between regions.
For example, in New England, wind’s median capacity factor in January sits at 32% versus 14% in July. California, on the other hand, has almost the opposite profile. In this state, wind’s capacity factor rises for the first half of the year and then drops for the subsequent 6 months. Overall, California’s wind farms operate with a 25% capacity factor with a median of ~15% in the winter and closer to 30% in the summer.
This seasonal variability can impact the potential role of wind in some regions of the country. In states with high summer electricity demand and lower summer wind capacity factors (for example, Texas), utilities might need to compensate for the seasonal variability as increasing amounts of wind are introduced into the electricity mix. This could mean installing more wind power capacity (i.e. more turbines) or using other technologies (e.g. seasonal energy storage, non-wind power plants).
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
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Wind Energy for Colorado Home Owners, Farmers and Small Businesses – 10.623
Print this fact sheet
by I. Shonle and R. Cantwell * (5/15)
- Winds on your site should be at least class 2 (annual wind speeds averaging 9.8 to 11.5 mph at 50 meters above ground level) to be suitable for wind generation.
- A state law passed in 2008 requires all utilities to allow residential turbines of up to 10 kilowatts and commercial turbines up to 25kw to connect to the grid.
- The cost of residential wind turbines varies depending on how much power they can produce and other factors..
- No matter what kind of electricity you are using, the best way to reduce expenditures is to use less.
1. Is wind energy practical for me?
A small wind energy system may provide you with an economical source of electricity if you live in an area with fairly steady strong winds and at least one-half acre of open land.
Personal impressions of the windiness of a site are often not reliable – it is better to use an objective measure. The most precise information can be obtained by placing an anemometer (a device that measures wind speed) on your site for at least one year. You may be able to benefit from Colorado’s free anemometer loan program http://projects-web.engr.colostate.edu/ALP/index.htm .
A faster method is to look up wind data from the Colorado wind resource map and the anemometer loan program. Winds on your site should be at least class 2 (annual wind speeds averaging 9.8 to11.5 mph at 50 meters above ground level) to be suitable for wind generation. The U.S. Department of Energy has more information on siting turbines, and the American Wind Energy Association offers a detailed siting handbook.
You also need to make sure your local zoning codes or covenants allow wind turbines and the fairly tall towers that allow them to catch enough wind to make electricity. You also need to do enough research to learn whether a turbine will pay for itself quickly enough to meet your financial requirements.
While the cost of a wind turbine is steep, the wind energy system will not require further electrical purchases for approximately 20 years. This allows you to avoid unpredictable future costs of other fuels by paying for wind energy upfront.
2. How does a wind turbine work?
Wind energy generates power in accordance with this equation:
Power = 0.5 x Swept Area x Air Density x wiind Velocity 3
Practical takeaways from this equation are:
- Siting your turbine in an area where there is good wind is the most important consideration since power increases with velocity as a cubed function. This means that small increases in wind speed will dramatically increase power output.
- The bigger the blades of the turbine (swept area), the more energy it will be able to capture. Very small turbines will not be able to produce much power, no matter how efficient.
A wind turbine works by catching the energy in the wind, using it to turn blades, and converting the energy to electricity through a generator in the part of the turbine called a nacelle. However, the turbine is only one part of the system. A tower lifts the blades high in the air where the wind is stronger. Because winds are more powerful and less turbulent higher off the ground, taller towers increase a turbine’s energy production dramatically. In addition, the presence of trees and buildings interferes with the wind resource. One rule of thumb is that the bottom of the area swept by a turbine’s blade should be a minimum of 30 feet above any trees or buildings within 300 feet. However, because increases in tower height so dramatically increase power output, consider investing in the tallest tower possible; the return on the investment is worth it.
An inverter converts direct current (DC) electricity to alternating current (AC).For wind machines that use batteries to store the power, a controller manages the electrical input to the batteries, turbines that are linked to the grid do not require batteries.
3. What is the difference between grid-tied and off-the-grid?
Until fairly recently, most of the small wind turbines in Colorado were installed by people who lived “off-the-grid,’’ that is away from a power company that supplied them electricity. They relied on their own ability to make power with a wind turbine and perhaps solar panels, with backup batteries to store power. But that is changing.
A state law passed in 2008 requires all utilities to allow residential and commercial users up to a certain size to connect to the grid. The grid performs the same function as a battery storage system. Power generated in excess of daily consumption gets credited back to the consumer at retail rate. This credit goes towards power consumed during calm periods, when electricity is not being generated. Colorado’s law is designed for people to offset their own power use, not sell it back to make an overall profit. It allows residential turbines up to 10kw of rated production and commercial turbines up to 25kw. Net metering is only allowed for systems sized up to 120 percent of the customer’s annual average consumption. At the end of the year, any power that is generated in excess of consumption is bought by the utility, generally at very low rates. Therefore, it does not make financial sense to oversize your system.
This “net-metering’’ law has sparked a lot more interest in small wind turbines that connect to the power grid. Because these turbines are tied directly into the electricity system, they will not work when the power goes out—unless there is a battery backup system.
4. How big a system do I need?
Most small wind turbines have a rating or size based on the maximum electricity they can generate such as 1.8kw or 5kw. But that is not a very useful number for most consumers, since power ratings are not an apples-to-apples comparison. It is better to use the certified ratings from the Small Wind Certification Council ( http://smallwindcertification.org ) (SWCC). The SWCC rating will show the kWh (Kilowatt hour) production of a turbine at a rated windspeed, giving the turbine its ‘rated power.’
However, the important decision factor is what the power output is at your average windspeed. If the rated windspeed (11.2 mph) does not match the average windspeed at your location, use the power curve supplied by the manufacturer, showing how much electricity the machine produces at a given wind speed. Use this to estimate how much electricity (kWh) the turbine will produce each month or year at the average wind speed you expect or measure at your site. Match this output with your annual energy consumption. To determine this number, check your monthly bills to come up with the annual total of kilowatt hours of electricity you use.
Once you have determined your annual electricity use, you can decide how much electricity you want to offset with a turbine, based on budget and other considerations. For example, if you want to offset nearly all your electricity use and have determined you have annual usage of 10,000 kWh, select a turbine that will produce that much power over the course of a year at your average wind speed.
5. How much will it cost?
The cost of residential wind turbines vary depending on how much power they can produce and other factors. A rough range is $4,000 to $8,000 per rated kilowatt. A system that would offset most of an average home’s electricity use (10,000 kWh/year) will cost roughly $50,000 before incentives.
6. How do I calculate a payback?
Determine the amount you pay on electricity bills before you install your system, or if planning an off-grid system, determine how much electricity you think you will use on a yearly basis. If your system offsets all your electricity, you can divide its cost by the annual bill to determine how many years it will take to pay off. If you are only offsetting part of your use, you need to adjust the calculation accordingly
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has a calculator and a paper on the economics of grid-tied small wind.
7. Sticker shock?
No matter what kind of electricity you use, the best way to reduce expenditures is to use less. That means making your home more efficient and finding ways to cut your use, such as opening your windows on cool nights and closing them as the day heats up. Turning off lights and unplugging appliances when not in use can really add up. For more information, see fact sheet 10.610, Energy Conservation in the Home .
For further cost reduction, look for rebates and tax incentives. The Database for State Incentives for Renewable Energy and Efficiency maintains a list of Federal and State rebates and incentives.
8. What zoning issues might I run into?
Zoning regulations vary dramatically across states, counties and municipalities. Check with your county planning and zoning office before proceeding. In many urban counties, height restrictions may rule out a wind tower. It is always a good idea to discuss the idea with your neighbors, as they may have input on placement.
9. What kind of maintenance is there?
Maintenance varies by system, so ask about requirements when you are considering which kind of turbine to buy and when you are reviewing literature from different manufacturers. Wind turbines require regular maintenance that generally consists of periodic inspections and adjustments; if performing this kind of maintenance, sometimes at the top of a tall tower, is not something you are either willing to do or to pay for, wind energy is not right for you. Representatives of manufacturers can give you an idea of the expected maintenance schedule and help you arrange maintenance. A rule of thumb is to allocate about 1 percent of the installed cost of the wind system for operation and maintenance expenses over the life of the system.
10. How long will the system last?
When you considering buying a system, ask about its anticipated lifespan. Most reputable small turbines should perform well for many years with only periodic maintenance required. Buy a turbine that has a good track record and a good warranty—at least five years is preferable. A warranty is one indication of the manufacturer’s confidence in the product. In general, you can expect 20 years from a properly maintained turbine from a reputable manufacturer.
11. Do I have to think about insurance?
You will want to insure your turbine against possible damage and liability claims, and some counties require insurance. Ask your property insurance company whether they will insure the turbine. Generally, the most cost-effective way to insure a wind system is under an existing homeowner’s insurance policy on your house; it is often insured as an “appurtenant structure” (an uninhabitable structure).
12. How will it affect the value of my house/ranch/farm?
A small wind turbine, like other capital investments, should increase the value of your property. If you can tell a prospective buyer that your electricity bills are almost nothing, the value of the installed turbine may be an attractive incentive.
13. What is the impact on the environment?
Small wind turbines emit no pollution and need no water. They also reduce the amount of pollutants that your utility would emit if you were relying on electricity from burning coal, for example. According to the American Wind Energy Association, over its life, a small residential wind turbine can offset approximately 1.2 tons of air pollutants and 200 tons of greenhouse gas pollutants (carbon dioxide and other gases which cause global warming). Although the impact of wind turbines on wildlife, especially birds, is of concern to many people, research has shown that bird impacts with small, unlighted turbines are quite rare. House windows and outdoor cats have a much greater negative impact. The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative ( https://nationalwind.org/ ) has a list of wildlife/wind interaction publications for more information.
Most modern residential turbines are fairly quiet—similar to ambient noise levels under average wind conditions.
14. What other renewable energy resources should I think about?
Before considering adding any renewable energy to your home, ranch or farm, experts advise you to do everything reasonable to reduce the energy you are using through conservation and efficiency. After that, adding renewables depends on your location and budget.
Solar photovoltaic panels may make more sense than small wind turbines in most urban areas. A combination of the two, perhaps with a diesel generator backup, often makes sense for people who want to live completely independent of the power company.
A ground-source geothermal heat pump, which takes advantage of the relatively uniform temperature of the earth, makes sense for heating and cooling, especially in new construction. And if you have water running downhill on your property, a micro-hydro generator might be a good option to consider.
* Irene Shonle, Colorado State University Extension director and agent, Gilpin County; and Rebecca Cantwell, Colorado Solar Energy Industries. 10/09. Revised 5/15.
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A guide to domestic wind turbines and how they can power your home
07 May 2021 | Aimee Tweedale
There’s a strong chance that wind is already powering your home here in the UK, at least some of the time. In 2020, wind turbines generated more than half of our electricity 1 . After all, we are the windiest country in Europe 2 – which won’t surprise you if you’ve ever taken a windswept walk along the British coastline!
But what if you want to cut out the middleman, and install a wind turbine of your very own at home?
Domestic wind turbines are on the rise. They can help cut down on bills, and they make guilt-free green energy . Plus, they’re often stunning to look at.
However, they’re also expensive, and need a lot of unobstructed space to generate energy (which means they won’t work in the average back garden). This is why sleek solar panels remain the more popular choice for homeowners who want to go green.
Still curious? Read on to find out everything you need to know about home wind turbines.
What is a domestic wind turbine?
A domestic, or home wind turbine, is a device that can turn wind energy into clean electricity for your home.
It’s like a miniature version of the much bigger wind turbines you’ve likely seen around the UK, in fields, or just off the coast. The basic science is the same, but home wind turbines are more compact.
Find out more about full-size wind turbines and how they work , in our complete guide
How does a home wind turbine work?
Like bigger wind turbines, home turbines harness the energy of the breeze to turn it into electricity.
When the wind blows, it pushes the blades of the turbine and makes them spin. This spinning turns a shaft inside the turbine, which powers a generator, which turns the kinetic energy of the spinning motion into electricity.
Regular wind turbines are usually very tall, and have gigantic blades, to catch as much wind power as possible. Obviously, when you have one in your back garden, you can’t have it built to the same scale, so you won’t capture nearly as much energy. That’s why domestic wind turbines are only recommended for people who live in rural, extra-blustery areas. Find out more about the ideal spot for a home wind turbine below.
Want to know more about the science behind wind energy? Read our full guide to the UK’s favourite renewable power source.
Types of home wind turbine
Generally, you could have 2 main types of wind turbine installed at home.
Roof-mounted wind turbines
These small wind turbines sit on top of your roof, just like solar panels would. Putting them on the roof gives them the best height to take advantage of the wind blowing over your house.
They’re usually cheaper to install than standalone turbines. But since they’re not as big, they tend to be less powerful, usually generating 1-2kW.
Standalone or pole-mounted wind turbines
Free-standing wind turbines are likely to be more powerful than those that fit on a roof – but only if you put them in the right place. They work best if they’re in a big, open space where there’s nothing to slow down the wind: think in a massive field – or even better, on top of a hill.
Unless you have this kind of land available around your home, a standalone turbine might not work for you. They’re also usually more expensive. But if you do have the space and the money for one, the good news is that you have a better chance of powering your entire house with it than with a roof-mounted system.
Not sure how much power you need? Find out more about how much electricity the average home uses , and read more on this below.
What are the benefits of powering your home with wind energy?
Advantages of home wind turbines.
- Wind is plentiful in the UK: did you know that 40% of the wind energy in Europe blows over our little island 3 ? It’s one of our greatest natural resources.
- Wind turbines are low-carbon: they’re a green, renewable source of energy, and don’t release any carbon emissions, which fuel the climate crisis .
- They can save you money: by generating your own electricity, you can cut back on your energy bills. Plus, you may be eligible to get payments from the Smart Export Guarantee .
- They look cool, too!: if you’re prepared to splash out, there are lots of architecturally innovative wind turbine designs out there. Why not go the extra mile and make your home look as futuristic as its energy?
Disadvantages of home wind turbines
- The upfront cost is high: a pole-mounted system that generates about 6kW could set you back between £23,000 and £34,000 4 . Read more about pricing below.
- They’re not suitable for every home: home wind turbines just don’t work for everyone. You need to have the right wind speed to power them, which means you need lots of unobstructed space – which is usually only the case in rural homes (sorry, city dwellers!).
Wind energy is green, clean, and sustainable. But it’s not the cheapest or easiest option, especially for urban homes. That’s why many home-owning eco-warriors opt for solar panels instead. These can be fitted on your roof, so they don’t take up extra space, and they’ll work anywhere (not just on top of a windy hill!).
Find out more about solar panels, how they work, and how to get them installed .
Can I put a wind turbine on my property?
If you want to know if a home wind turbine could work for you, the first thing to consider is how much space you have. Remember, your wind turbine will capture more energy the higher it’s placed, and the bigger its blades.
Got the space? Great – but hang on a second! There are 2 more key questions you’ll need to answer before you go putting a wind turbine in your garden.
What’s your wind speed?
Wind turbines ideally need an average wind speed of 5m/s (meters per second) to be cost-effective.
Not sure how fast the wind is around your home? The best way to find out is with an anemometer – a nifty device that uses sonic waves to measure the wind – or a wind gauge.
The Energy Saving Trust recommends installing one of these devices in the place where you plan to put your wind turbine, and leaving it there for a couple of months. This will give you the best, most precise data, to help you decide whether a domestic wind turbine would be worth it for you. You could do this yourself, or hire a professional to investigate for you. Find out more from the Energy Saving Trust.
Do you need to get planning permission for a home wind turbine?
Depending on where in the UK you live, you might not need to have planning permission to install a wind turbine.
In England , you don’t need planning permission for a roof-mounted wind turbine, as long as it meets a list of rules – including:
- The installation meets MCS standards
- You have a detached house, surrounded by other detached houses
- You’re only installing one turbine
- You don’t already have an air source heat pump installed
- The turbine doesn’t extend more than 3m above the height of your chimney
You might also be able to install a standalone wind turbine without planning permission if meets the rules – including:
- The highest point of the wind turbine is no higher than 11.1m
See the complete rules for permitted development of home wind turbines here.
In Scotland , you’ll need to get planning permission for a roof-mounted wind turbine.
You don’t need to get planning permission for standalone turbines, as long as:
- It’s the only wind turbine on your property
- It’s more than 100m away from your next door neighbour
- You’re not putting it on a world heritage site, scientific research land, near a listed building, or near land for archaeological purposes
Check the full rules here . And whether or not you need planning permission, make sure you (or your installer) speak to your local authority to get clearance for your turbine.
In Wales and Northern Ireland , you’ll need to apply for planning permission to install any kind of wind turbine.
How much does a home wind turbine cost?
The cost of a domestic wind turbine depends on what type you go for, how big it is, and who installs it.
The average cost of a small roof-mounted turbine (between 0.5 kW to 2.5 kW), is about £2,000 5 . But these don’t generate very much electricity, so it will take a very long time to recoup that cost.
On average, a free-standing 5kW wind turbine may cost between £20,000 and £25,000. But don’t forget that you’ll also have to cover the costs of planning permission, preparing the site, and connecting your turbine to the electricity grid. This could bring the total to £30,000-£40,000 6 .
Do I need insurance for a home wind turbine?
Your wind turbine might be covered by your building insurance. Check your policy to be sure. If not, there are specialist insurers who can give you a quote.
Can I get paid for exporting energy from my wind turbine?
It used to be that people with home energy generators could earn money from the Feed-in Tariff scheme . The government unfortunately closed that scheme in 2018 – but the good news is that they replaced it with the Smart Export Guarantee (or SEG).
The SEG rewards you for exporting any energy that your wind turbine generates back to the National Grid. If you’re eligible, you could get SEG payments 4 times a year. How much you get will depend on the size of your turbine, how much electricity you use, and how much you export (based on meter readings).
Find out more about the Smart Export Guarantee here.
What size home wind turbine do I need?
How big a wind turbine you need to power your house will depend, of course, on how much power you use.
The average UK home eats 3,731 kWh of electricity per year 7 . A pole-mounted 1.5 KW turbine could deliver around 2,600 kW over the course of a year, depending on the wind speed and other factors 8 . A 10kW system could generate around 10,000 kWh per year 9 .
Remember: these numbers are estimates. To work out whether it makes financial sense for you, you’ll need to know how much energy you actually use, and how much you’re likely to get from the wind speed around your home.
Want to start tracking your electricity use? Find out how to get a smart meter installed at home for free.
So, are domestic wind turbines worth it?
Powering your home with wind energy is a fantastic way to stay green – but it’s not cheap or easy. Before you take the leap, remember, you need to consider these 5 crucial questions:
- Do you have enough space for a wind turbine, either on your land or on your roof?
- What’s your local wind speed?
- Considering the space and wind speed you have available, will a wind turbine be able to give you as much power as you need?
- Have you got enough cash to cover the upfront installation costs?
- Do you have planning permission (if you need it)?
If you’re looking for more ways to go green, check out our guide to reducing your home’s carbon footprint , and our ultimate guide to being efficient with heating and hot water .
Choose OVO Energy to power your sustainable home
If you’re interested in cutting the carbon footprint of your home, consider switching to OVO, to get:
- 100% renewable electricity as standard 10
- A tree planted in your name for every year you’re with us 11
- OVO Greenlight : a unique tool that gives you personalised tips on how to cut down your carbon footprint
- Customer service rated “Excellent” on Trustpilot
Ready to cut carbon emissions? Get a quote in less than 2 minutes via the link at the bottom of the page.
Sources and references:
10 100% of the renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates and how these work. A proportion of the electricity we sell is also purchased directly from renewable generators in the UK.
11 Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust . Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.
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