Wind turbine choices
I've always been fascinated by wind and solar power technology. My recent article on how wind turbines work spurred me on to research a little more on the subject; and while I had previously discounted wind turbines for my electricity needs, I'm now reconsidering it as an option.
I admire wind technology as an alternative to carbon dioxide spewing means of generating electricity, but there were a few issues that had me settled on solar; being:
- Aesthetics. Windmill type wind turbines are somewhat ugly; but nowhere near as ugly as a coal fired power station.
- Danger to bird life. I love birds and it seems that birds are known to fly into turbine blades. Although it's infrequent; one bird dead is too many if it's avoidable.
- Noise. I've had my fill of man-made noise living in a city; my new green life I want to be filled with the sounds of nature. Even the wooshing of the blades would probably drive me nuts after a while.
- Maintenance and cost. Wind turbines certainly require more maintenance than solar panels. Anything with moving parts wears out; and wind turbines are based on moving componentry.
- Wind speed required. The area where I'll probably be isn't known for high winds.
As I touched on in my first article on turbines; there are two main types - horizontal-axis (HAWTs), which is the traditional windmill type setup, but there are also vertical-axis (VAWT) wind turbines.
On the left, a horizontal axis wind turbine and on the right; vertical axis
It's the latter that really grabbed my interest. Vertical axis turbines until recently were as ugly as their horizontal axis counterparts and not as efficient; but that appears to have changed with newer models hitting the market. According to manufacturers, the benefits of a vertical axis wind turbine such as the design above over horizontal axis designs include:
- can be used in suburban settings
- lower profile for use on rooftops
- more aesthetically pleasing; but I guess this is a matter for personal taste.
- may not be subject to the number of regulations of their horizontal counterparts
- lower noise
- next to no vibration
- operate effectively with wind coming from any direction
- shorter towers mean less cost and fewer materials
- lower maintenance and repair cost as there are fewer moving parts
- easily visible to wildlife. When spinning or at rest, they appear as a solid object
- self regulating spin speeds in high wind events
- produce energy at lower wind speeds
One possible disadvantage is in relation to the fact they don't require a tall tower as wind speeds can be less at ground level. Simple solution - build the tower you were going to need anyway if you were set on using wind power.
I think I'd much prefer seeing the vertical axis wind turbines dotting the landscape. If you're considering implementing a wind turbine soon, this is perhaps an option well worth looking into.
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