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Category — Microwind (Bergey)

“Recouping cost of wind turbine may take more than a lifetime” (Consumer Reports confirms micro-wind diseconomies)

“At the rate the WT6500 [off-grid wind turbine] is delivering power at our test site, it would take several millennia for the product to pay for itself in savings—not the 56 years it would take even with the 1,155 kWh quote we received.”

- ConsumerReports.com

Is there a role for new renewables, specifically wind and solar PV in our electricity generation portfolio? And if not at the industrial-scale, grid-feeding level, what about at the micro-turbine level for local electricity use? This Consumer Reports (CR) study answers just this question.

Before examining the verdict, CR’s claim that wind power is the fastest growing source of new electric power deserves a critical comment. “Fast growing” from a small base too often is hype over substance.

Take the example of the lemonade stand of a little girl on our street, Suzie, just this summer. She sold one glass the first day, four the second, and 15 on the third. I’ll bet she is the fastest growing soft- beverage maker on the planet, but the big soft drink industry is not much concerned. I know this is a very simple comparison, but the lesson should be clear.

As far as having stand-alone wind turbines to meet energy needs is concerned, and basically this is what we are talking about here, is there a role? Well yes and no. It sort of depends.

A Little History

It might come as a surprise to many, but the U.S. was the world leader in wind turbine capacity for most of the 20th century. A later comer to this scene was Germany, which temporarily took the lead in the late 1990s, and of course lost it again in the early 21st century. The Germans had the worst record for renewable energy use in Europe and felt they had to do something about it.

The U.S. was the world leader for so long because of the size of the country and the limited extent of the electricity grid in some rural areas for much of this period.

What were the wind turbines used for? I’m not sure, but I imagine with some confidence it was to provide electricity to pump water and possibly to provide some lighting at night. Note the storage capability that pumped water provides, and wind tends to blow more at night than during the day.

Another interesting perspective is China, the major producer of off-grid wind turbines (100w to 10 kW), and I can imagine the domestic applications are similar to the U.S. as described above for remote areas.

What Role Micro-Turbines?

So what is the role for micro-turbines in modern societies? I suggest three: [Read more →]

August 14, 2012   9 Comments

Big Green for Little Wind? Alec Baldwin Eyes $0.40/kWh Power

“I want to build something that is environmentally forward-thinking. I’m not building a satellite dish so I can watch the Knicks game.”

- Alec Baldwin, quoted in “Actor Tilts at Windmill,” Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2012.

“‘We’re behind big wind,’ [Mike] Bergey [of Bergey Windpower] said, with small-turbine technology having advanced just a couple of iterations from its early days, while the more mature big-wind technology has pushed forward eight or nine times. A little more help on the R&D front — some of that government solar money, say — would be appreciated, he said.”

- Peter Danko, “Alec Baldwin Turbine Puts Small Wind In Spotlight,” Ecotech Institute,  July 20, 2012.

Alec Baldwin, the Hollywood movie star, has worked to preserve the charm and character of the Town of East Hampton on Long Island (Suffolk County, New York). But his plan to build a 120-foot-tall wind turbine on his Amagansett property is misguided and temps other people to make the same mistake.

If TV antennas on house roofs look bad, these small wind turbines will look much worse–and make noise.

Mr. Baldwin said he is trying to “escape” high electric rates and draw attention to renewable energy with his Bergey Windpower Excel 10kW turbine.

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However, as most other, well-meaning “visionaries,” he is doing the Long Island economy a disservice by touting small wind turbines, which is an inefficient choice within an inefficient technology to begin with. It is unfortunate also because of other well-meaning people with much less money to waste could follow his flawed example. [Read more →]

July 24, 2012   18 Comments