Wind Power Facts

Jenny asks…

What is it like having wind turbines on your land?

I am writing a paper on Wind Energy with the landowner’s perspective at hand. I just want to know how painful, if at all, the process was, and if you regret it and why? I’ve been researching, but I think an interview with someone who knows first hand would be the best source for my information. Thanks in advance!

Windmill Farms answers:

Hey Miranda, we’ve had 3 different wind turbines on our property over the last 12 years or so. The first was one I built, it ran for 4 minutes then disintegrated. The second was a small unit made for a sailboat. We tested it for 2 years and learned a great deal. It broke down a lot, and when it ran in windy conditions, it made a ton of noise. Turns out there is an inverse relationship between rotor diameter and noise. The bigger they are, the slower they turn, the quieter they are. Our third is a heavy unit, 1kilowatt, on a metal tower I hired someone to install.

The overall experience was basically positive, but we had some setbacks. Getting permits took time, but it all went pretty smoothly when I look back at it. In a nutshell, I would say having a wind turbine is like having a garden, you really don’t notice it until you get hungry, then you’re really glad you bothered. What started us on this mission was our power used to go out a lot. So our small sailboat turbine was combined with one small solar panel and some batteries to make 12 volt electricity to run lights and electronics when the power was off. Later, we liked it so much, we built a larger system with a 1.4 kw solar array, 1kw turbine, and a large battery bank. Now we use the utility company for our backup. The last 5 years or so our electric bill has averaged around $6 per month, and the power has not been out at our house for even a minute in almost 10 years now. Hard to put a price on that.

If you’re really trying to do some research, you might try looking into the more expert websites instead of asking hacks like me online for info. I’d be happy to talk to you about it, but there are some great non profit groups doing work in this area, and even one really good magazine, Home Power Magazine. We started reading it 12 years ago, went to some energy fairs listed in the magazine, and here we are. The staff at Home Power liked our small system so much as a way for a homeowner to break into the field that they featured it in an article. If you subscribe, you can look up the article in their search engine by searching for, “Small System First.” Now our home is even visited by the local 5th graders each year as part of their science program, they get to see a real live working solar/wind powered home after finishing the school work on the subject. Here is an interesting fact, did you know there are over 100,000 homes and businesses in the US alone that use some level of solar or wind power right now? That’s good news. There are some great books on the subject as well, I will list below.

After looking into all these sources, you might find yourself getting hooked on home grown energy like us. One word of warning, utlility power is pretty cheap in most parts of the world today, so going down the home grown path of enlightenment will not save you any real money. It’s a lot like people who grow their own tomatoes, it’s cheaper to buy them at the store, still, they go to the trouble and expense of maintaining a garden. They have to know about soil ph, watering and bugs. People who grow their own electrons have a similar curse, they become experts on where each electron in their house grows, but it can be therapuetic for some people, like us.

So do some more research, check out some sources, call some people and ask lots of questions. You might also take a few minutes and read some of my other answers by clicking on my avatar and scrolling down, it might give you a better idea how we think here. Good luck Miranda, and take care, Rudydoo

Nancy asks…

Do we realize that when we gear up to build the next generation of power plants we will be short of skills?

We are about to embark on a long overdue program of building the next generation of nuclear and coal power plants as well as solar and wind power systems.

The problem this poses is the fact that we don’t have enough of the next generation of skilled people in the trades that will be called upon to build and maintain this next layer of our infrastructure.

Conpetency in these skilled crafts isn’t achieved overnight!

Windmill Farms answers:

Next generation of power plants refer to your Nuclear power plants and Windmill as specified in your question. Be assured that there will be no shortage of skills and manpower in these fields as there many training institutes under various governments to impart skills to all those who come into this purview. I am afraid whether we are focussing much on solar power generation where we are even now finding difficult in sourcing right skills for the right job in solar energy

George asks…

How do you feel about Nuclear power plants as a source of energy?

I have yet to make up my mind on Nuclear Energy, I would just like to see how you feel about it. I know some facts, but I would like to gain more knowlege. Also what are your ideas on Cold Fission?
Also if you could give you age that would be helpful, by all means you do not have to. -Thank you for your time.

Windmill Farms answers:

The greatest technological challenge of the 21st century is to meet energy demand in an environmentally sustainable way. Nuclear energy is a carbon free energy; however, current fission technology leaves a deadly legacy – radioactive waste that is toxic for tens of thousands of years. To put the energy demands of humans in perspective with nuclear energy, please see the lecture by Nate Lewis (California Institute of Technology). In 2006, humans are consuming energy at a rate of about 14TW (14 trillion watts). Using current technology, in order to generate 10TW of energy, we would have to build a new reactor every single day for the next 50 years. This would be a monumental effort in stupidity and futility. Furthermore, this would not meet growing energy demand, which is predicted to be ~28TW in the year 2050. The clearest alternatives are wind energy and solar energy. Practically, wind energy used globally can potentially provide ~2TW energy, meaning that solar energy is going to be our primary energy source. The energy that strikes the Earth in 1 hour as sunlight is enough to provide humanity’s energy needs for 1 year (~14TW). However, this energy is diffuse, and we still need to develop low cost, efficient methods to convert solar energy to fuels and electricity. Research is progressing rapidly in this topic. The world needs to committ massive resources to this right now.

The second part of your question relates to cold fusion. Interestingly, fusion is the source of sunlight, so using solar energy, is in a way, using fusion energy (we don’t have to worry about the problems of containment and generating fusion pressures and temperatures). There are a few research projects around the world that are working on finding useful methods for controlling fusion reactions for energy. Perhaps the most well known involves a giant room with thousands of high energy lasers that are focused at a pelletized source of fusionable material. In this scheme, the energy input from the lasers initiates fusion. This technology is promising, but is far from being economical. Research efforts should continue.

Daniel asks…

What are the environmental facts you have to look out in order to create a tower in Dubai?

I’d like you to tell me what kind of environmental difficulties you would have to face in order to create a big tower or a building. Environmental facts may include weather (lightning, snow etc) , natural disasters (earthquakes, flood etc), how the ground is( if the ground is hard enough to bare the weight of the building), I would really appreciate if you could tell me the underground situation.

Windmill Farms answers:

Ask the people who built Burj Dubai. As with any building, you would need seismic zone, wind loads, lightning strikes – isoceraunic level, soil analysis, material availability, solar heating and lighting levels,
availability of power and water and utilities, waste disposal and sewerage connections, road access, parking, machinery and labour availability, finance, and whateverr else goes into a hugely expensive enterprise. Oh, and you would need to have customers for the place.

Donna asks…

If you had to argue the benefits of wind energy, what would they be? What are the risks?

What would be some arguments for the benefits of wind energy, what would they be? What are the risks?

Windmill Farms answers:

The main is that they are renewable and therefore will never run out. There also clean and clan be placed offshore with less maintenance than other power plants e.g. Less to run than coal plants.

The negatives of it is that they ‘look ugly’ (which i think is the stupidest reason ever) and that their noisy. The main reason i’d say against them is the fact that the power supply is very irregular and hard to predict and therefore could not be used on its own and would need other plants as well.

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