Electricity from Wind - the basics

Electricity from wind is entirely possible, even the casual observer recognizes this. It appears simple - stick a rotor assembly in the air and use it to turn an electric generator to produce energy, and run some wires from the generator to where the power is needed.

From a 50,000 foot view, that's how it works, but there are other considerations. I'm not an expert, but I feel confident enough to point to the basics from the perspective of someone who is heading down that pathway towards energy independence.

It is my intention to generate electricity from both wind and sunlight, so I've done a bit of homework that I'd like to share with you.

Here are the basic principles behind electricity from wind, as seen through my eyes:

  • A site analysis is a good place to start. You need to know if there is sufficient wind at your location to support the idea of generating electricity from wind power.

  • Wind can be influenced by seasonal variables, so make your wind assessment year round, or bolster your wind generation with other sources or energy such as photovoltaics.

  • Wind turbines can be high maintenance as they are mechanical devices flying up in some relatively harsh conditions of wind, turbulence, dust, rain, hail, sleet and what have you.

  • There are various wind turbine designs out there. The best one is the tried and true HAWT (horizontal axis wind turbine). It's really the only serious machine for generating electricity from wind resources.

  • The most important factor in choosing a wind turbine is wind swept area. That relates to the diameter of the rotor. Wind is the fuel, so in order to generate electricity, you need to have a large "fuel catcher."

  • Strong, steady and "turbulent-free" winds are found in high places, so you'll need a high tower.

  • A grid-tied system makes sense to me. You don't need expensive and maintenance intensive batteries, you can legally make your electric meter run backwards, and you can sell excess power back to those who want to sell it to you.

  • There are many commercial products that help you generate electricity from wind resources, so be aware that amidst the technology, there is hype, hysteria and hucksters.

  • Do it yourself is an option in the arena of wind power. It's known as homebrew wind power, and it's not especially challenging if you learn from those who are doing it.

  • Local and federal regulations apply for siting and operating wind turbines. There are clearances from power lines, property lines and structures that must be considered. Depending on the height, some turbine towers might require collision avoidance lighting.

Well, there you have it - the basics. There's plenty to think about and lots of planning ahead if you think generating electricity from the wind is in your future.

It's in my future as part of my approach to frugal living and becoming more self sufficient. I hope to chronicle my wind turbine construction project and show you my own turbine flying high above the prairie here in southeast Wyoming.





Done with Electricity from WInd, back to Alternative Energy Sources

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