When you think of wind turbine design, you most probably picture those vast wind farms with massive turbines spinning in unison. But what if we told you that it is now possible to have your own scaled down wind turbine at home? Impossible? Definitely not. Affordable? If you know where to look.
So, how exactly does a wind turbine work?
Let us answer the this question by explaining a little bit about wind turbines.
A home wind turbine system generally is made up of a tower with 3 aerodynamic blades, which spin a generator to produce electricity; and a tail to keep the windmill facing the wind. The generator is essentially a motor that operates in reverse – so instead of electricity causing the motor to spin, the motor is spun to create electricity. The power generated is then passed through an inverter to change the direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), which is then stored in batteries.
The tower can vary in length, depending on the prevalent wind conditions. In areas with little wind, the tower needs to be tall to catch any available wind; but in windy areas – such as near the coast – the tower can be shorter.
What makes wind energy so popular is the advancement in technology of the blades. They have become extremely aerodynamic and efficient enough to turn in very light winds, making wind power systems attractive in even low-wind areas. Initially, they were made up of 5 blades, similar to windmill water-pumps you see on farms, but then advanced to 3 blades, taking the appearance of enormous aeroplane rotors. And like the deal with the tower, the lower the wind, the longer the blades need to be to run effectively.
A less popular type of windmill is the vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT). Like the name implies, these turbines rotate on a vertical axis, so they look very different to their horizontal axis counterparts. Although they have been around for some time, they never became a commercially viable alternative. This is because they operate low to the ground and require large areas of flat land with strong constant wind flow to work effectively. There have also been ecological concerns with these turbines on how they affect migratory birds.
When is it ideal to install a wind turbine at home?
Wind power solutions generally work best when the following situations occur:
- You have a large property: Wind turbines are typically installed in areas that extend over an acre. This is to ensure wind flow is not blocked by any surrounding buildings.
- The prevalent wind in your areas is about 11 miles per hour: This is obvious, but if you stay in a low-wind area, your system will not be very effective.
- You need to pump water from outside: This is the reason you see so many small traditional windmills on farms. They are very effective in pumping water from dams and reservoirs into the house.
- Your house needs a constant power supply: With utility companies coming under strain from the increased demand for electricity, power outages have become more common these days. This can be overcome by installing a home wind turbine to make your own power, which can be stored and used when needed.
Now don’t get us wrong. We do not mean you have to satisfy all of the above to make wind energy worth your while. Furthermore, technology is advancing at a rapid pace – motors are becoming smaller, and more efficient, which means turbines are becoming smaller and lighter too. So, even if you do not live on a large property, it is now possible to install a few smaller wind turbines on your roof, thus enabling them to catch the most wind possible.
Home wind turbines are now really easy and affordable to make yourself, especially with the right instructions and information. A good place start is our reviews section, where we have discussed each set of wind turbine design plans in detail, helping you get started in the right direction.
Originally posted 2008-11-12 12:17:41.