So You Think You Want Wind Power?

So You Think You Want Wind Power?

. . .

You have been at your job for more than a decade and gotten some significant raises and promotions. Now you’re at the outer edge of middle management and can reasonably expect that the recent economic doldrums and the inevitable downsizing might be just the trick to float your boat at the very least.

You’ve done well for yourself, and for the earth. Reduce, reuse or recycle is practically a motto with you, and to prove how eco-savvy you really are you have your recycling barrels lined up inside the garage; one for glass, one for aluminum cans and one for paper.

In the winter, you compost in the kitchen in your 4.7 gallon Bokashi and dream of spring. You drive a Prius, a realistic solution to lots of highway miles that makes greening your commute seamless. You have a “smart” thermostat and in the summer and a solar blanket warms your pool between parties.

You are definitely ready for a step up, ecowise. You like the idea of renewable energy but live in a part of the United States that doesn’t get much sun in winter, which is precisely the season when you need it if you are going whole-house solar. You know this because you’ve done your homework and confirmed that solar insolation (the amount of energy the sun delivers at your location) is not adequate in December to light your Christmas tree, let alone an entire house which shelters two very committed teenage electronic geeks. (And no, geek is not an insult).

Perhaps it’s time to think about wind power. I know I have. At one time I was so committed to the MagLev Wind Turbine I almost reached the point of sending flowers once a week (well, not seriously, but you know what I mean). When Maglev failed to live up to its billing, taking customer’s deposits and not delivering a product, I suffered the same pangs as when Bruce jilted me in high school.

But never fear, the concept – of a frictionless levitated wind generator which operates without lubricant or TLC (put the dog out, bring the Maglev in) – has been picked up and refreshed by NuEnergy, among others. NuEnergy engineers have in fact delivered a vertical-axis wind generator or turbine (VAWT)  that outperforms the plebian HAWT (horizontal-axis etc.) by a factor of 25 percent.

It’s probably no surprise that China is first to the gate on this one. While one U.S. firm drags its feet, facing the same R&D snafus the former company did until it dropped out of the running in 2007, GuangZhou ZhongKe HengYuan Energy Technology has said it is ready to begin mass producing these very unique Maglev turbines on a commercial scale, including those designed with homeowners in mind. And if the Chinese decide to embargo this product in retaliation for U.S. trade limits on cheap Chinese solar panels, we can always go to Ontario-based Enviro Energie, which manufactures a very similar wind turbine (I think, though the company’s operations and patents are indecipherable in French).

Anyway, once I got over the sexy bad-boy Maglev, I turned to more conventional types of residential wind turbines. One of these, and definitely my favorite not only for the amount of energy it delivers but the cut-in and cut-out speeds compared to the price, is the Bergey EXCEL.

For $22,650, you can get a Bergey EXCEL HAWT which delivers all the electricity a moderately-sized home needs, even with its share of electrogeeks. It comes with a 120/240 volt DC (direct current) inverter, a cut-in wind speed of 5 mph, no cut-out wind speed and an overspeed protection device called AUTOFURL. The Bergey operates in winds up to 134 mph.

The one thing the EXCEL doesn’t have is a tower, but Bergey supplies simple monopoles for mounting though the monopole is redundant if you plan on affixing the wind turbine to your roof.

One warning, though, if you live in an old neighborhood with mature trees, you need to elevate your wind turbine above them to catch every breath of wind. If you don’t, you’ll have nothing more than a very expensive whirligig, so do consult the experts before installation.

The EXCEL comes in two versions, off-grid and ready to plug into the grid, but even if you are the world’s greatest handyman you will need the approval of a residential electrical inspector (contact your power company) and your local government entity. In fact, you’re probably going to need a handful of approvals, so why not let the pros work it out.

You may also need the services of a builder or residential building inspector to evaluate the condition and sturdiness of your roof. The Bergey EXCEL, while one of the smaller HAWTs, still weighs 1050 pounds. And once installation is complete, you will likely need an all clear from that power company before you can throw the switch, because if you made a mistake a whole lot of people besides yourself are going to be contemplating their navels in the dark!

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