The Viability of Using Wind Power

by A.D Paterson on 24/11/2010

Have you ever stood outside for any length of time and thought that wind power was the way to go to solve the world’s electricity problems? In some countries it’s only natural that you’d think along those lines, but just how viable is wind power as a solution?

In this article we’re going to look at how a wind turbine works, whether it makes sense to use this method to generate the energy for your home, or whether it’s something that is better left to the power companies to do.

How does a wind turbine work?

It’s a fairly simple idea that goes back many hundreds, if not thousands of years. As the wind blows it pushes a propeller, and the propeller turns an actuator which produces the electricity. While the earlier ones would have been used to turn a great spur wheel, which then turns the stone nut, and this turns the stones that do the grinding, the basic principal is the same.

Is it worth getting one installed at home?

Using wind power is one of the two major ‘energy self-sufficiency’ routes that people tend to look at going down (usually after seeing the latest power bill), and many of them then plump for the solar power option, but using a nice stiff breeze to keep your laptop going shouldn’t be over looked.

The type of wind turbine you get will really be down to three things; your location, the amount of wind you normally get, and, quite naturally, the amount of money that you can afford.

When it comes to the amount of wind that you require you really only need as much as it will take to charge up a car sized battery. But, a wind turbine will always produce electricity when the propellers are being turned, so, if your batteries fully charged, you’ll have to find some other way of using the excess energy (this is known as load diversion) – otherwise it could damage the wind turbine.

Wind turbines need to be put in a position that’s as high in the air as possible – allowing for any restrictions that may be placed on this by local government – and in a place where it’s free of things like trees that could interfere with the wind flow.

If you decide to put it on your roof you really should use some sort of dampener. There will be a fair amount of vibration from it when it starts working, so, to prevent any damage from happening to your house, you need to make sure that as little as possible of that vibration is transferred through to the roof.

The cost of buying one will vary, because there are a number of sizes available, but you may find that you’re restricted on size anyway, based on your location i.e. if you have a lot of open land and nobody nearby who will have to see it, you can get away with the largest one. If you live in a town or city you may only be allowed the smallest turbine to generate your money saving wind power.

While these are also going to cost more to buy and install than connecting to the mains electricity, you should bear in mind that this is going to be a long term money saving plan.

You should work out how long it will take to start saving money by finding out how much your standard monthly power bill is, then divide the cost of the bought and installed wind turbine to see how many months it takes at the current cost before your wind power is actually free energy.

That isn’t a totally accurate way of working it out though. Seasonal power changes and the frequent increases the power companies decide to levy can dramatically reduce the time it takes for it to pay for itself, but it’s still a good way to get a rough idea.

Is this a method better left to the major power companies?

In a lot of cases the major power companies are slow to take up these alternative methods for generating power, and, if you’re doing this as a way of helping to save the planet, there’s no guarantee that the power you get will have any green credentials in the first place.

Also, wind farms aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. They take up vast tracts of land, often resemble an H.G Wells invasion, are quite loud, and have been known to kill bats.

Oddly enough, you may be able to sell your own wind power back to the electricity grid, meaning you know that some of the power being used is from a renewable source, and you get some money for doing it.

There we have it; the viability of using wind power.

It is possible if you live in a fairly exposed area with at least an average amount of wind. There is more than one size of wind turbine, but you may have council restrictions on the size you can install anyway. Finally, they may cost a bit to buy and have installed – even when compared with solar power – but with the diminishing resources and increasing prices, they’re going to pay for themselves fairly quickly.

So, are you just shooting the breeze when it comes to wind power?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

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