14 thoughts on “The booming small wind industry.”

  1. They’re about ten grand, last I checked. I’d have one, but Albemarle County prohibits people in my part of the count from having one, period. There’s not even a permitting process. I really have to remember to go to a Board of Supervisors meeting to gripe about that.

  2. Therein lies the problem, our county government. There is no reasonable reason why you should not be able to install one of these turbines. Same with Cell phone towers, why we don’t have more of them, they can be disguised as trees, I just don’t understand. Ok, that’s my litte rant for the eve. Thanks!

  3. Waldo, what would be your breakeven point where the energy you’d save would equal $10,000? For me in my builder grade, drafty townhouse with an ancient HVAC and fridge (yes, I’m working on all of the above), it’d still be about 9 years even if I replaced truly 100% of energy consumed. With your interest in energy conservation, I’m quite sure your house uses less energy than mine. Are we talking 15-25 years to breakeven, then?

    I’m not saying don’t do it, of course. I’m just offering a possible explanation for the lousy sales so far.

  4. Waldo, what would be your breakeven point where the energy you’d save would equal $10,000?

    It’s really tough to say. Though I have an anemometer, it’s not at windmill height, so I can’t know how efficient that a windmill would be here. Inevitably, though, not great. Most of my math shows that I’d be lucky to make my money back in 25 years. No doubt the wind is no better at your home.

    But when I visit areas with great wind (much of the Blue Ridge, much of the Virginia coast), I find it amazing that I don’t see windmills. The payback time on a turbine there is only 5–10 years, and from there on out, it’s pure savings. So it’s not that I think that the general public should go out and get turbines, but any of the hundreds of thousands of households who live in the very windy parts of this country would probably be wise to consider it.

  5. I’ve been researching home wind power, as well as water power, as I have a small/decent sized brook on the side of my house with a 50′ drop at an average of 10 gallons/minute. The reality is that the turbines that can be powered by either of these technologies are relatively tiny, say 500-800 watts per hour as a reasonable expectation. On a house that uses an average of 5 kw/hr the return on investment is sad indeed. I have also been reading that solar cells are susceptible to incredible degradation with time, such that many lose half of their useful power generation in 5 years, not taking into account the fragility of the arrays/cells themselves. Ouch. My latest research is into biomass/wood fueled home turbines, something with even fewer adopters (80 as of 2006) in the country and so little usable technology available. At this rate I think I’ll buy a used Russian nuke sub and have it buried in my back yard with the cooling inlets/outlets plumbed into the aquifer and sell back the extra 500 Megawatts or so to the utility. Do you think I’ll need a permit for that? ;)

  6. First off, upon further review, my first in the stack (yes, I’ve been hanging out atOccupycville) should have read 2012 rather than 2001…but most people probably figured that out.

    Chris, we’re trying to be serious here. Of course, you need a permit for a Russian nuclear sub buried in your back yard. Think of all that removed soil. Had you you even thought of how that loose dirt could end up in the waterways? Now if you could have mounted it on piers so as to not disturb any soil, that would be different.

    Let me know if you have any excess spent fuel. I’ve heard that it makes great much for the tomatoes.

    But back to being serious, and you have no idea how hard that is more me, I did hear on TV today someone say that without govt. subsidies that wind power sales would “drop off the cliff”.

    I think we need the alternative energy development equivalent of a Manhattan Project. Actually I think we’re going to need an all five boroughs project.

  7. If it makes you feel any better, when I travel out to rural America, I see all kinds of windmills just about every time I go to the midwest or even mountain west. Huge arrays in western Texas and Oklahoma when I was out there this year, as well as in Montana.

  8. I have also been reading that solar cells are susceptible to incredible degradation with time, such that many lose half of their useful power generation in 5 years, not taking into account the fragility of the arrays/cells themselves.

    That would have to be a pretty low-quality solar array. Array lifetime is a really important metric in the world of solar, and it’s one thing that newer technologies have going against them. There are folks out there using 30-year-old panels that are still delivering at 80% of their original rating, and plenty of folks with 5–10-year-old panels that are delivering 90% of their original rating. Effectiveness does fall off over time, no doubt, but it’s a pretty crappy panel that would lose 50% in five years.

    I think we need the alternative energy development equivalent of a Manhattan Project. Actually I think we’re going to need an all five boroughs project.

    :) That’s pretty good. I’m going to remember that, forget that I didn’t make it up myself, forget it, remember it again, reuse it, and then claim credit for it. By way of warning.

    If it makes you feel any better, when I travel out to rural America, I see all kinds of windmills just about every time I go to the midwest or even mountain west.

    You will find windmills being used to pump water up from wells, to feed livestock and, yeah, those huge arrays of wind farms. Both are great, absolutely, but I’d like to see a market develop for small-scale wind to supplement power for individual homes.

  9. I have photovoltaic panels that are still pumping out electricity within 10% of new output, 35 years later.

    Do NOT evaluate output as direct to your needs. Any proper panel/windmill/turbine install will need a storage device. You will make waterpower 24/7, but use that power more like 8/7. Hence the storage, usually batteries.

    There are some really nice standalone windpower or solar electric systems that take your well/water supply completely off the grid. Wouldn’t it be worth something to know that even if the power goes out for 3 weeks, you will have running water? Throw in one of the no-power solar water heaters and you have hot and cold running water, free of the grid. Add an AC inverter, a few essential electric circuits, backup heat and you are sustainable.

    Do not evaluate alternative energy through your grid-based glasses. You need to be more informed.

    All of this stuff is proven off-the-shelf technology, and in use in the recreational marine industry. There the payback is calculated to include peace of mind.

  10. Thanks Bubby, that’s encouraging to hear. I think one thing that’s important is that conservation and efficiency has to be about half the battle. We can’t expect to have giant refrigerators, AC, etc. run by alt. energy. We need to spend equal amount of time and effort figuring out how to make what elec. we do produce work more efficiently.

    Anyone ever used “cool tubes”? Tubes that draw outside air through underground tubes into your house? Can also be used to cool the reactor in your backyard nuc. sub.

  11. I participated in the install of buried earth-regulated air tubes in a home circa 1981. The architect had the piping discharge into the living space. Within two years the home was a mold disaster. Some type of closed-loop with heat exchanger would have prevented this. Geothermal heat pumps provide this off-the-shelf.

  12. Wish we could use windmills here, but our county also forbids them. The only place they seem to be allowed is where no one has any money to complain. Just check out the still stalled Cape Wind project.

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