Uncle Bobs Tips

Wind Generators

Wind Generators

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Don't be confused by the fancy terminology. Wind generators are nothing more than modern day windmills. On steroids. Well, sort of. The difference between a generator and a windmill is this. A windmill is connected to a large piece of machinery, which uses the mechanical energy directly from the mill. A generator takes that mechanical energy and converts it into electricity.

There are several advantages to wind generated power. Here are a few:

One of the cheapest forms of energy at 3.5-4 cents/minute. With the proper setup, you can even sell electricity back to the power company. How's that for easy income.

Global warming and greenhouse effects are causing many governments and individuals to investigate alternatives. Wind is the cleanest, most environmentally sound form of electricity. Additionally, wind is a natural resource that is consistently renewed.

Unlike other types of generators, wind turbines run with elastomeric elements to minimize noise emissions. A typical wind turbine will run at 45 (dB)A, while the average home operates at 50 (dB)A.

With so much research and technology involved, one would imagine an astronomical cost involved in running a turbine. But wind generators aren't just for the multi-billion dollar corporations. Believe it or not, there are many homes across the country that use wind energy as a supplementary power source. Even more amazing, there are DIY instructions on building your own wind turbine! Fears of skyrocketing gas prices, increased environmental concern, and a decline in oil production have combined to create a real interest and need for individual use of wind turbines. For information on building or installing your own wind turbine, visit Otherpower.com.

Let's take a general look at a few of the variations of wind generators.

Wind turbines are built on either a vertical or horizontal axis. There are pros and cons to each type. Pros and cons of a vertical axis include: (this focuses primarily on the benefits for domestic use)

The gearbox or generator can be located at the base, making it easier on the tower. This is good for two reasons. One, the tower does not have to support this heavy weight, and two, because maintenance and repairs are more easily done on parts closer to the ground.

The low height is convenient in areas that only allow structures to be a small maximum height.

Smaller VAWT are easily installed and transported.

Yaw device is unnecessary, reducing cost.

Better aerodynamics.

The biggest con is that vertical axis is difficult to mount onto a tower. They have to be run low down to the ground, drastically decreasing the amount of energy culled and their productivity of the generator altogether.

And horizontal axis:

Peripheral blades increase stability.

Most HAWT are self-starting.

Taller towers catch more wind, thus creating more energy.

HAWT tend to be less expensive than verticals because of the increased production, efficiency and greater general capacity.

Cons include, extremely high installation and transportation expenses, demand is much higher than supply creating a recent rise in prices, and downwind versions deplete faster due to higher turbulence levels.

Darrieus

Darrieus turbines are high in the efficiency charts but low in reliability. Torque ripples and cyclic stress are frequent problems for darrieus turbines, though increasing the number of blades can give strengthened solidity to the rotor. Giromill is a type of darrieus turbine, which eliminates several of the problems in the original model, including high starting torque and a lower blade speed ratio.

Offshore turbines

Offshore turbines are used to harness the more powerful winds found on the open sea. In countries such as Denmark 25-30% of the country's electricity is supplied by these offshore wind generators, and productivity is growing. Offshore wind farms contain numerous machines, up to a hundred at times. However, offshore turbines are much more expensive than their onshore or near shore counterparts. Underwater cables, foundation and tower construction, and maintenance and repairs are all expensive and difficult endeavors.

Near shore

Near shore wind farms are hotly debated. These locations are typically replete with scenic beauties Kodak moments. Large monstrosities can be an eyesore to an otherwise picturesque view. Such areas also home a wide array of wild life, and wind turbines often interrupt bird migration and nesting patterns.

In conjunction with a solar collector

Wind energy cannot be relied upon on its own. Winds are sporadic and unpredictable. As such, many will couple solar energy with their wind power system. A solar collector is a mirrored panel that collects the heat of the sun. This heat can be used to boil water, creating steam and, in essence, energy.

Mama Nature has a whole slew of resources that can be used to form clean and safe energy. We can tap into that reserve, and use it for our ever-growing needs. With such renewable natural resources, possibilities are growing wider each day. Who knows what opportunities (for DIYers) the future may bring. Visit our generator guide for more on the various types of generators from portable to industrial and everything in between

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