Small Wind Turbines….what they can and can’t do

Posted Sunday 17th of February 2013 at 07:24

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It doesn't matter whether its called a small wind turbine micro turbine small wind generator or micro wind generator - The technology can only do so much!

What small wind generators Can Do:

Micro wind turbines are rural animals and need a good source of wind to generate any meaningful amounts of power. This makes them the perfect solution for providing power in remote locations where no connection to a main power grid is available. As a technologically developing species humans have an fast increasing list of electricity consuming equipment that needs to be installed and used in places where there is no access to a mains grid. Telecoms stations remote dwellings security equipment water pumping amenity lighting data-logging wifi & radio broadcasting agricultural utilities rescue stations and medical stations are just a small number of applications that require off-grid power. Currently these 'off-grid' systems may be powered by diesel generators that require a constant supply of diesel fuel that needs to be transported to the site in 50 gallon drums. Not an easy task even before we consider the rapid rising cost of fuel and all of the other problems associated with diesel generators.

An off-grid micro wind turbine system can be installed at a relatively low cost and can provide free clean power 24 / 7. Due the nature of remote sites the wind resources are usually good or excellent meaning that the turbine has access to an abundant amount of clean energy. Small wind turbines in off-grid applications often work alongside solar PV to create a remote power system that can provide power whatever the weather conditions. Obviously solar PV will not generate anything at night during low light conditions or in the extreme north & south latitudes but a small wind generator has the capability of providing power to the system day and night 24 /7. This means that the two technologies work together beautifully to provide you with electricity where there otherwise would have been none!

Payback periods on a system like this can be exceptionally quick when you compare to the alternatives of paying hundreds of thousands of ££££ to connect to the main grid or having the high operating costs of diesel generators! For example with our small wind turbine and off-grid equipment telecom operators can reduce 'OPEX' by 50-80 % meaning that system can pay for itself within 1.5 to 2.5 years.

Here at Leading Edge Turbines we not only design and manufacture our own range of UK quality and performance micro-wind turbines but we also specialise in the design and specification of off-grid systems for any application.

Take a look at our experience or contact us for more information about how we can help you power your system.

What small wind turbines cannot do:

Micro turbines have received something of a slating in the media over recent years mainly due to the technology being deployed in totally unsuitable locations and applications. The rush for consumer 'green tech' in recent years has seen all sorts of new small wind gadgets and gizmos that are designed to be installed in an urban environment - maybe on your roof - with the promise that the micro turbine would save you or make you money by feeding power back into the grid. The reality is of course that there is precious little high quality wind is available in urban areas where these generators have been installed making it difficult for the turbine to convert the energy. Couple this fact with the controversial nature of large wind farm scale turbines to the layman and you have the perfect recipe for a PR disaster!

The first thing that small wind generator technology cannot do is convert energy from nothing. Wind is the fuel for any wind generator so if you have little wind you are not going to be able to generate any electricity. Secondly by definition urban locations are connected to the mains electricity grid which will provide inexpensive power. It is difficult for a small wind generator to undercut this value when it is impeded by a poor and turbulent wind resource.

Today there is much investment development and hype being put into vertical axis 'darrieous' turbines (known as VAWT's - Vertical Axis Wind Turbine). They are a favourite design for architects due to the pretty and sculptural designs that can be achieved. They are also hyped as being more efficient in an urban environment due to the fact that they can accept wind from any direction without needing to turn and point to the wind. Unfortunately this is mostly hype and misinformation. Whilst it is true to say that a vertical axis turbine does not need to turn and face the wind the simple fact is that vertical axis turbines can convert between 3 - 10% of the available energy in the wind whilst most traditional horizontal axis turbines (HAWT's) convert between 25 - 35% of the available energy.

If you live in an urban area are connected to the grid and you want to generate your own clean electricity to save money and be green - install some solar PV panels and you can't go far wrong.<