January 13th, 2009
These days, there are more and more options for those of you who want a small wind turbine out in the yard or on your roof. Residential wind power systems range from the standard to the somewhat bizarre, and come in sizes that can power several major appliances all the way up to your whole house and beyond. In the right conditions, residential wind power can be much more economical than other renewable energy options such as solar or geothermal.
Traditional propeller-type wind turbines remain the best options for residential settings outside of urban areas. They are efficient and time-tested, and the leading manufacturers of these turbines have been at it for a long time. Two of the leaders are Bergey Windpower and Southwest Windpower. Bergey makes several versions of its Excel turbine suitable for home wind power use. The Excel can be connected to the electrical grid and is big enough to power an entire home.
Southwest Windpower makes the Skystream 3.7 turbine (shown above), an innovative machine that has a number of advances specifically targeted to residential users. It is meant to be tied to the electricity grid, and in reasonably windy conditions could power an average home.
In the past few years, a number of new manufacturers have come out with radical turbine designs intended to make wind turbines easier to install and better for tightly packed suburban and urban environments. Most of these turbines are vertical axis wind turbines, or VAWTs. Instead of spinning on a horizontal axis like their propeller-based cousins, VAWTs rotate around a vertical axis. The key advantages are that they can be quieter, are more amenable to the swirling wind conditions found in urban environments, and can have a smaller overall footprint (both tower width and height). The downsides? The companies that make them don’t have long track records, and the turbines are less efficient because a portion of each turbine is always spinning into the wind.
One example is Mariah Power, who makes the Windspire wind turbine (shown in the upper right image above). Each Windspire turbine is 30 feet tall and two feet wide, and it resembles a sculpture as much as it does a renewable energy device. The cylindrical structure makes it very quiet and compact, meaning you could install multiple turbines alongside one another for more power. Each unit should provide from 10-50% of the electricity for a typical home depending on where you live in the country.
Another example is Helix Wind. The company make several vertical axis turbines that, in my opinion, most closely resemble a ram’s horn. The complex (and weird or beautiful, depending on your sensibilities) design efficiently transforms variable winds into clean electricity. Their largest model, the S594, can provide 50-100% of a typical home’s electricity use under the right conditions.
So, now that you’re intrigued, should you run out and buy a new wind turbine for your rooftop or back yard? (more…)
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