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Home Wind-Power Turbines Make Headway

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the the-answer-is-blowing-in-the-wind dept.

Power 163

Pickens writes "Wind turbines, once used primarily for farms and rural houses far from electrical service, are becoming more common in heavily populated residential areas as homeowners are attracted to ease of use, financial incentives and low environmental effects. Experts on renewable energy say a convergence of factors, political, technical and ecological, is causing a surge in the use of residential wind turbines, especially in the Northeast and California. "Back in the early days, off-grid electrical generation was pursued mostly by hippies and rednecks, usually in isolated, rural areas," said Joe Schwartz, editor of Home Power magazine. "Now, it's a lot more mainstream." Some of the new "plug and play" systems can be plugged directly into a circuit in the home electrical panel and homeowners can use energy from the wind turbine or the power company without taking action. Schwartz says that even with the economic benefits, it can take 20 years to pay back the installation cost. "This isn't about people putting turbines in to lower their electric bills as much as it is about people voting with their dollars to help the environment in some small way," he said."

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163 comments

Hmmm (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23098738)

This has been bugging me for a while, but do niggers really have horse-sized dicks?

Re:Hmmm (0, Troll)

a11 (716827) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101344)

this very likely means you are gay. get trashed and roll some x or do a line and see if it feels good to hold a dick in your mouth. it's the only way you'll know now. it's better than finding out when you're in you 40s and have kids.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23103080)

this very likely means you are gay.
I am a girl. Obviously not gay now that I'm interested in dicks.

How green is it? (2, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#23098754)

This isn't about people putting turbines in to lower their electric bills as much as it is about people voting with their dollars to help the environment in some small way
Because the energy embodied in all those manufactured items is less than the equivalent high-efficiency central generation plant, or because you get the one-up the Joneses in their Prius? Never trust the words of someone who is looking to sell you something.

Re:How green is it? (4, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23098866)

There's probably a lot of other things you could do with the same money, like put in a ground-loop heating/cooling system. Of course, it wouldn't be as showy, and none of the neighbors would know you had it, so it's not the best way to show off how eco friendly you are, but would probably benefit you quite a bit more.

Re:How green is it? (3, Informative)

eric76 (679787) | more than 6 years ago | (#23098908)

Another way to be more environmentally friendly would be to use adobe or compressed earth building techniques.

In this area, we get about the same amount of yearly rainfall as in places like Santa Fe, New Mexico where the use of adobe is very common. I think it would do quite well.

For cooling, swamp coolers work quite well for us.

Re:How green is it? (2, Funny)

naveenoid (1183365) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101680)

Makes sense. Surely Adobe knows how to deal with "Flash"-Floods ;)

Re:How green is it? (1)

belthize (990217) | more than 6 years ago | (#23102734)


    Or combine them, I'm currently designing my house to be built in NM. It essentially couples solar (passive + potentially active), CEB (compress earth block) and ground loop.

    Basic theory is build an efficient structure (CEB), limit heating/cooling needs (site layout, passive solar), provide heating/cooling as efficiently as possible (ground loop).

    I'm still debating active solar or not.

Belthize

Re:How green is it? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23105294)

You can add a wind-power turbine to your dwelling. Changing it to Adobe, rammed earth, straw bale, cob, or one of the other dozen or so energy-efficient building materials involves knocking it down and starting over.

I can use a swamp cooler for cooling most of the year, but if it's rained recently it does fuck-all. So in the spring when the temp is flipping up and down, It's A/C time.

The single best thing you can do is simply orient your house properly and build proper overhangs. It's called Solar Situating and it can probably save you more on energy costs than anything else.

If you're building a house, provided you can get straw, it's usually the cheapest and easiest way to put up a well-insulated structure. Rammed earth requires a lot more energy input if you don't count sunlight, which I don't, because it's free.

Re:How green is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23102138)

Wow, talk about arrogance. Unless your home/office is on sandy soil or near water where you can have open loop into the body of water, installing ground-source heating loops is dirty, nasty busy. It's basically well digging. In fact there's a whole episode of Dirty Jobs about it. I've long wanted to convert to ground-source but I can't justify the environmental impact of digging a 100 foot deep well through georgia clay in an urban neighborhood.

But I'm sure you're right. It MUST be about eco-ego.

Dumb ass...

Re:How green is it? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#23103378)

Using a heat recovery system on your AC, turning off lights, car pooling, there are lots of things you can do to cut down on power that cost less and are very effective.
Of course then adding a windmill and or solar after that would be great.
What I really want is for the off switch to be the off switch.
I have to wonder just how much power is being wasted on monitors, TV, DVD players, wireless phones, PS3s, Wiis, 360s....
You get the idea.

Re:How green is it? (5, Interesting)

Skynyrd (25155) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099052)

I am involved with a group of people building windmills. It has nothing to do with buying things. It has nothing to do with keeping up with the neighbors. None of us drive Priuses (most of think they are a scam unless you live in a super-densely populated place).

We're buying used motors on eBay. Some of us are making our own blades from fiberglass (and some are buying them).

We have created an open source hardware project that makes power. It'll cost me $300 - $400 to make something I think is cool, will pay for itself over time, help reduce my footprint on the planet in an almost measurable way and let me do something creative.

You got a problem with that?

Re:How green is it? (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099122)

no, but could you tell me where I can get plans for this $300-400 system and how much power it is capable of producing? Thanks!

Re:How green is it? (2, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099710)

If you want to get started simply, buy a 24 inch, 24 Volt cooling fan for a stationery motor (something like a caterpillar diesel). Add a large diode, mount it on a tall wooden pole with a wire coming down loosely with an in-line plug (so you can unwrap the cable every few weeks), run it to a 12V battery and you have yourself a simple 12 DC system for a cost of $150 (new) or so.

This type of simple systems are common for powering seaside holiday bungalows.

Re:How green is it? (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099868)

Add a large diode, mount it on a tall wooden pole with a wire coming down loosely with an in-line plug (so you can unwrap the cable every few weeks)

Hmm. Why do you need to unwrap the cable every few weeks?

Re:How green is it? (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099924)

Hmm. Why do you need to unwrap the cable every few weeks?
As the windmill head weathervanes to stay faced into the wind, it rotates about the mounting pole. You can either use some sort of rotating connector to deal with this, or allow some extra cable to wrap around the pole and manually unwrap it every so often.

Re:How green is it? (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100042)

As the windmill head weathervanes to stay faced into the wind, it rotates about the mounting pole.

D'oh. Should've seen that myself. Thanks.

Just need some sort of shaft passer on the pole to let the cable through. :-)

Re:How green is it? (3, Informative)

fredklein (532096) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099914)

It's not "300-400", but...

"The BWC EXCEL (http://www.bergey.com/) is a modern 6.7 meter (22 ft) diameter, 10,000W wind turbine designed for high reliability, low maintenance, and automatic operation in adverse weather conditions"
"Prices, which include a voltage regulator, pump controller, or a line-commutated inverter, range from $21,900 to $27,900."
"The BWC EXCEL is most often installed on a guyed lattice tower, which is available in heights of 18 m (60 ft.) to 43 m (140 ft.). Prices range from $7,400 to $12,680. "

SO, *worst case scenario* is 27,900 + 12,680 = $40,580.

Now, Electricity is what, about 10 cents per kilowatt hour? So $40,580 will buy 405,800 kwh of electricity.

In the last 2 months, I used a total of 946 kwhs for my small 2br apartment. Let's say a house'll use twice that, or about 1000kwh per month.

It'll take 405 months (33 years) for the system to pay for itself.

Of course, Your electric bill is more than just 'kwh x price per kwh'. Heck, I pay more in "Power Supply Charges" than I do in "delivery and System charges". All in all, I pay 19.39 cents per kwh. That means $40,580 will buy 209,499 kwh of electricity, and the system pays for itself in 210 months, or 17.5 years.

Of course, that doesn't take into account any future electricity price increases. It also doesn't take into account how, with the right system, you can keep up and running indefinitely the next time there is a grid blackout or winter storm that knocks out the power.

Re:How green is it? (3, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100016)

While payback period may be the easiest measure to calculate, it's not a very good one. You really need to be calculating either IRR or mortgage length if you want to determine whether something is a good investment. They're different ways to measure the same thing. Basically, when you install something like a wind turbine or solar setup, you're buying an annuity. You need to show that that annuity is a better investment than other comparable investments on the open market.

Re:How green is it? (4, Informative)

fredklein (532096) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100060)

Replying to myself to say:

if the above system seems a bit costly, try this:

$2,590 1 kW XL.1 Turbine, with PowerCenter
$1,595 60 ft. Tilt-up Tower
$450 .. 5.3 kWh Battery Bank (B220-4)
$1,044 1,500 W Inverter System

$5,679 Total Cost

$5679 = 29318 kwh, which is 30 months payback.

/of course 1000 watts is a little low for most people...

Re:How green is it? (2, Informative)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101192)

/of course 1000 watts is a little low for most people...

Indeed. But you don't need to cut yourself off from the gird; and, indeed, in Europe at least, when you have an excess (which you sometimes will) you can sell electricity back to the grid at a preferential price.

Re:How green is it? (1)

KeithIrwin (243301) | more than 6 years ago | (#23104134)

Many US states also have what they call "net billing" laws which say that if a consumer generates power which is then put onto the grid, this can be used to offset the power they consume and the consumer will be charged only for the net amount of power consumed. Another way to look at it is to say that the power company has to buy power from the consumer at the same price that they sell it. This guarantees that all the power you produce will be economically useful to you.

Unfortunately, there are also some states in the US which don't have such laws.

Those are some loooooong days (2, Insightful)

Somegeek (624100) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100090)

Except that your payoff time calcs are assuming that your windmill is generating 100% power every hour (34 hours per day?) all day, every day of the year. The wind doesn't just work that hard...

Re:Those are some loooooong days (2, Informative)

fredklein (532096) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100266)

No, I did not factor in the amount of power produced. (I assumed it would be adequate.)

  What I calculated was how long it would take (at your current electric payments) to pay off the windpower equipment.

Actually, if you look, I assumed a house would use 1,000,000wh (1000kwh) per month. A 10,000w system could make this in 100 hours, or about 4 days. Of course, it won't be running at full power, but even at 1/4 power, it only needs 16 days to make all the power you need in a month.

/Or I royally screwed up the math. :-)

Re:Those are some loooooong days (1)

Somegeek (624100) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100982)

/Or I royally screwed up the math. :-)
No, you got it right. Thanks for the explanation. I was counting hours/month, and well, nevermind. I'm going away now.

Re:Those are some loooooong days (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23103708)

Except that your payoff time calcs are assuming that your windmill is generating 100% power every hour , every day of the year.

The numbers also assume that the mill will not need repair or replacement. That it will last the twenty or thirty years the manufacturer claims. Environments where wind power is feasible are not always the most predictable and benign.

Not for the suburbs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23100386)

A 22 ft turbine isn't for most people who are close to the grid. For someone who lives far away from anyone else, this system might be cheaper.

Re:How green is it? (2, Interesting)

willy_me (212994) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100698)

Try going here [otherpower.com] .

Re:How green is it? (2, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099308)

Not at all, as long as I don't have to look at it. These systems, imho, are trying to capitalize on the "green" craze and with a 20 year payback (probably without TVM or maintenance figured in) just don't pass muster. I'm with you on the the fun, cheap stuff. Reusing old parts is excellent (remember - reduce, reuse, recycle...in that order), and likely far greener than new turbines even if less efficient.

Then again, maybe I'm just jealous because my house sits on the leeward side of a ridge, so I get very little wind. Of course, in a 40 year old house, being out of the wind in the winter is definitely a _good_ thing for reducing my overall energy consumption!

Maybe so, but (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 6 years ago | (#23102568)

...they still have a justified market: In the genuinely off-grid areas where there is no power line access.

Of course these days, the people who A) want to show off, or B) don't mind spending to help the environment (or both) probably represent a large and growing market.

And while its true that the money could be "better" spent on a green electric plan from the utility, you still have to trust the utility to generate the amount of windpower they claim. I can imagine living in areas of the USA where I'd prefer to be a self-installer rather than trust even the most showy "green" utility not to lie.

Re:How green is it? (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101058)

We have created an open source hardware project that makes power. It'll cost me $300 - $400 to make something I think is cool, will pay for itself over time, help reduce my footprint on the planet in an almost measurable way and let me do something creative.
 
You got a problem with that?

Yeah, I do. Because "building a cheap windmill" != "reducing your footprint", especially if you are making your blades out of materials that are energy intensive to produce (fiberglass), which also produces toxic waste to boot. Your windmill will be rusted junk long before it replaces the energy needed to create its components.
 
 

It has nothing to do with buying things. It has nothing to do with keeping up with the neighbors.

You're right - it's about none of those things. Nor is it about actually reducing your footprint. It's all about being kewl and open source and giving you a warm fuzzy feeling that you are Doing Something.
 
You want to reduce your footprint measurably? Don't build a windmill - instead, reduce your consumption of electricity to match that the amount the windmill would have provided.

Re:How green is it? (1)

mmurphy000 (556983) | more than 6 years ago | (#23102498)

None of us drive Priuses (most of think they are a scam unless you live in a super-densely populated place).

Define "scam". My Prius has gotten 49.6 mpg over its lifetime (as measured by fuel put in; the on-board computer tracks pretty closely), and I don't live in a "super-densely populated place". Also, the PZEV emissions profile isn't strictly tied to population density.

I'm not saying the Prius is for everyone, but "scam" seems a little harsh.

Re:How green is it? (2, Insightful)

OhPlz (168413) | more than 6 years ago | (#23102896)

Same here. I'm usually hovering between 48 and 50 mpg with mine. I live in NH, we don't have super densely populated anything. I love the vehicle, but I'm not terribly fond of the people that go to great lengths to explain how it's "wrong". It's a car. It gets ~50 mpg if you don't drive it like you stole it. Learn to cope.

Re:How green is it? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23099080)

As someone who's had to go 3 days without power due to storm, not fun. Even having a little power to run a refigerator, for a little while. HUGE.

Oh if I had it to do over again, eventually I might, I'd like to get involved with building my house early in the process. Get the heat pump. Get the right location with the right southern exposure (giant trees now) and photovoltaics, maybe solar water heat. Maybe some geothermal. Look into the feasibility of building a greenhouse into the house, and how much of a pain in the ass that would be. Collect and reuse water too. More appropriate landscaping. I'm fighting a lawn that wants to be forrest because of covanents. Roll all that shit into the financing. I like my house where I live. It's all very nice. But there are a lot of ways it could save me money, and be a lot nicer. Things that are doable at the outset but don't lend themselves to doing after the fact.

Re:How green is it? (0)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099102)

Fuck the Joneses, I'm putting one on my Prius lol. Cuz you know, the power from moving would sooo turn the fan enough to run the car lol. Btw you failed to factor in that all the necessary parts being made in factories and using electricity to do it is factored into the amount of carbon emitted by making one of them but you'd have to factor that out if people using the product replace the power station. Plus those per item stats are bullshit anyway. They always treat them like they're the only part being shipped and stuff that adds on more carbon than it really makes per unit.

Re:How green is it? (4, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099236)

That's the great thing about the cost - it's already rolled into the price (the energy costs). Power from a major generation facility also factors in the capital costs of the plant (embodied energy) and the cost of fuel, plus the cost of maintenance and upgrades. The summary indicates a 20 year payback. That's usually done without the time value of money factored in, and without maintenance costs. Once you get beyond 7-10 years, it's generally not economical from a business point of view. Also, with a 20 year payback, it means that the energy embodied in the unit is nearly as high as the total lifetime output of the unit. Solar cells (photovoltaics) are the same way, though there's always a new technology right around the corner that plans to change that, but it never seems to be commercially viable.

Personally, I'm a practical green. I'm even willing to pay a small premium for green, provided it's equivalent to the non-green alternative. Being in the building industry, where we get greenwashing all over the place, so I tend to be skeptical. The old marketing slogan, "reduce, reuse, recycle" should have has a tag line, "in that order." I can't say I'm living it completely, but where it's practical I'm in. Wind turbines can be a positive source of energy, but they can also be an eyesore. They are also one step removed from the primary source of power - solar. Once we figure out how to efficiently capture and store even a small fraction of the 1200W/m^2 that hits the earth, we'll go a long way to solving our energy problems. It's as close to an ideal solution as can be had, though it's not without pitfalls. Still, I look forward to 40% efficient solar panels with lifetimes measured in at least years, if not decades, which can be bought for less than a penny per kilowatt hour. I'll use them to power my flying car ;-)

Re:How green is it? (2, Insightful)

samael (12612) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101704)

Solar's down to a 5 year payback in some areas. It's vastly more efficient than it used to be.

Re:How green is it? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23102080)

The old marketing slogan, "reduce, reuse, recycle" should have has a tag line, "in that order."
I always thought that was kinda obvious, myself.

One thing I will comment on, though - when I first visited the US back in 2000, I was absolutely astounded to discover that there was such a thing as a 200w standard light globe. And the apartment I was in was full of them. Usually housed in an almost completely opaque lampshade, that absorbed about 80% plus of the light emitted.

Here in Oz, I think the house I grew up in had, oh, maybe one 100w globe? And that was to light the entire lounge (yes, with one globe). Most of the light globes we used were either 40- or 60-watters. Except for the fluorescent tubes in the kitchen, of course.

It just seems to be a different mindset. My postgrad supervisor, an American, thought nothing of a $150 per month electricity bill. We thought $60 was over the top, and tried to figure out where we'd used so much power. Fifteen years later, we average about $45-$50, and that's likely to drop significantly since we installed a solar hot water system.

But electricity is cheap here in Queensland. Lots of high-quality black coal to be dug. Which means electricity here is also "dirty", in terms of CO2 emissions, which is a damn good reason to go solar. Especially living in a city that gets an annual average of nearly 8 hours of sunshine per day... :-)

(heh. The Captcha was "daylight"... :-)

Re:How green is it? (2, Insightful)

Burz (138833) | more than 6 years ago | (#23102678)

Whoa there... Since when does the market cost of the embodied energy of a product have anything to do with the cost to the environment (which is typically much more severe though less noticeable to the consumer)? We are in this climate change mess because the market cannot measure ecological value.

If the manufacturer can prove they use renewable energy for most materials and components in the windmill, then I'd buy the eco-friendly argument. Otherwise, the case still has to be made for the green properties of small-scale windmills.

Re:How green is it? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099212)

If it pays for itself, it probably isn't an energy sink.

For most homes, better insulation and heat pumps(already mentioned by another reply) will probably save more energy for less dollars.

Re:How green is it? (4, Interesting)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099248)

It sounds like you are saying that:

  1) A wind turbine won't generate enough electricity over its lifetime
        to offset grid usage and the manufacture of itself

That could be true in some situations. Depends on the turbine and the location. When pursuing sustainable energy, it's vital to pick the sort of generator that best fits the local environment. Sometimes that's not wind. Sometimes it is.

  2) Wind turbine purchases are just conspicuous consumption of a green flavor

Showing off may be the motive for some people, but all the turbine owners I know sincerely are trying to live sustainably (and are often entertained by the logical contortions HEMI fanboys utilize to claim green equality/superiority).

  3) Wind turbine owners are suckered by slick salesmen

The owners I know did extensive research, and almost all of them built their own from kits or scratch.

So you can definitely do wind wrong and lose on carbon. You can also do it right. And there are many benefits to wind power. Even if your electricity is more expensive than the grid's, some people are willing to pay more for what they consider a higher quality product. Fossil-fuel electricity can't stay artificially cheap forever. Distributed generation can be more robust than centralized plants (like TCP/IP).

Plus you get free poultry delivered to your backyard.

Re:How green is it? (4, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099372)

Plus you get free poultry delivered to your backyard.
And that is not true. I recall a research being done by green groups in The Netherlands, where we have large wind parks in the northern part, mostly on the seashore of course. The idea was that those huge fast moving blades must be killing scores of birds.

They found that is not the case. Birds hardly get killed by turbines - accidents happen of course, but are rare.

The researchers thought that this is because of the noise those turbines make, even upwind this is audible to the birds at sufficient distance. So they just fly around them. The mortality was as low or lower than around power lines: those also kill birds that happen to fly into them.

This result actually surprised the researchers, in a happy way of course. And the research being done by a.o. animal protection groups gives it quite some credit to me.

Re:How green is it? (2, Informative)

phaggood (690955) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101808)

> fast moving blades

Well, not all windpower generators take their design from 300yr old Dutch models; some companies [metaefficient.com] remember we're in the 21st century. On their website there's a picture of their system on a low-rise apartment building; it's so invisible it could placate the most rabid NIMBY-ite.

> free poultry

Some companies [avinc.com] are even putting grates in front of their blades. I do find it amusing when people become so concerned about the fauna when you talk about renewables when they never care about the small animals taken out by transformer stations unless said animal 'terrorist' kills himself as a blow against human imperialism against his species.

Re:How green is it? (2, Informative)

mpathetiq (726625) | more than 6 years ago | (#23103292)

I live in and work for a city with four 1.8 megawatt turbines and can support that research with anecdotal evidence. The utilities director has informed me that the only things our turbines have killed are bats. The assumption is that the blades screw up the bats' echolocation. Even then, the numbers of bats that have been found are very minimal.

Wind Turbines (4, Interesting)

eric76 (679787) | more than 6 years ago | (#23098888)

I've been wanting to do this on the family farm for years. My concern is not really about reducing power usage as it is about having power during the power failures that are not all that uncommon.

There is also a big push to put the big corporate wind turbines on the local farms. Those could easily make the difference between making a profit or losing money on a farming operation.

I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning at a local wind turbine construction site where they are putting up approximately 75 turbines this year. The owner of the land said he had been working for seven years just to get to the point where they are putting them in.

Re:Wind Turbines (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099438)

Farms are a smart place to put wind turbines. There's a lot of land on a farm, and very little to impede the wind. The cost of putting up a turbine is on the low side while the return is quite high. A suburban home, however, is a little different, which is what TFA is about. The density of such areas means both that there'd be a lot of surrounding objects that could potentially cause impedance, and that the cost of putting up any practical wind turbine would be quite high.

I mean, I guess you could power a few household gadgets with a small turbine on the roof while the wind is blowing, but it definitely won't run the AC system.

Re:Wind Turbines (2, Interesting)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099808)

Household chargers can gen up to a kilowatt, if the mast is a few meters above the top of the roof

Re:Wind Turbines (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100048)

My concern is not really about reducing power usage as it is about having power during the power failures that are not all that uncommon.

The first question that comes to mind is "what is causing all those power failures?"

Locally, the answer would be "gale force winds."

The second question I would ask - having lived on a family farm - founded ca. 1820 - is whether that DIY windmill can carry the load. Tractor-Driven Generators: Producing Quality Power [gov.on.ca]

Re:Wind Turbines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23102606)

I'm curious about putting these in on my family farm, too. Time for a farm-power special interest group!

a little extra info (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099012)

If you're not from the US, you should know that we have a federal law here that if someone else adds electricity to the grid, they have to get paid by the power company per killowatt-hour. So you pay what like a thousand for a decent wind turbine and feed power back into the grid and it pays for itself over time and makes you a lot of money in the long run. It's a great investment. So combine the fact that almost everyone is worried about global warming and wants to do something about it with the fact that you get paid to just let something stand in your yard, that explains why this is becoming so popular here.

Re:a little extra info (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099088)

Could the grid handle everyone pumping electricity back into the grid, especially with such a technology as wind, where the amount of power generated tends to be "bursty". Could this backfire a large percentage (> 25%) of homes started doing this?

Re:a little extra info (2, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099174)

1) it's a state by state rule. Not all states are doing it.
2) there are provisions such that the buyback is reduced if more people take advantage of it
3) they don't pay you. They simply credit you for the appropriate amount of kWh. If you're below zero at the end of the month, they still don't pay you, and your bill won't actually be zero.

Re:a little extra info (4, Informative)

fredklein (532096) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099978)

Not always true. There are two types of 'buy back'- One (netmetering) uses one meter that can go in both directions. If you are using more than you are producing, the meter goes forward. If you are producing more, it winds Backward. If it ends up at at a higher number at the end of the period (month/quarter/year), you pay for the net amount you used. If it ends up at at a lower number, you do NOT get paid for the extra you gave them.

The other way is to have 2 meters- one for what you use, and one for what you sell to them. Even though they only pay wholesale rates, it would be possible to sell them more than you use, and actually make money.

Re:a little extra info (2, Informative)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101260)

Not always true. There are two types of 'buy back'- One (netmetering) uses one meter that can go in both directions. If you are using more than you are producing, the meter goes forward. If you are producing more, it winds Backward. If it ends up at at a higher number at the end of the period (month/quarter/year), you pay for the net amount you used. If it ends up at at a lower number, you do NOT get paid for the extra you gave them. The other way is to have 2 meters- one for what you use, and one for what you sell to them. Even though they only pay wholesale rates, it would be possible to sell them more than you use, and actually make money.

Whereas in Germany, and in some other European countries, they have to pay (quite a bit) you more for every KW/h you sell them than for the ones they sell you.

Actually if you have running water on your land a pelton wheel [wikipedia.org] will typically give you more reliable and cheaper power than a wind turbine.

Re:a little extra info (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 6 years ago | (#23102016)

Whereas in Germany, and in some other European countries, they have to pay (quite a bit) you more for every KW/h you sell them than for the ones they sell you.

Hmmm...

1. Acquire two neighbouring houses
2. Use one house's supply to provide power back to the grid via the other
3. PROFIT!!!

(Not even a "..." in this one!)

Re:a little extra info (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#23103226)

1.5 figure out a way to induce a current between two equal potentials.

Re:a little extra info (2, Interesting)

Soldarith (1274714) | more than 6 years ago | (#23103090)

Correct.

Also important to note, here in the US, is that many states (such as PA) have laws that require electric companies to comply with residential renewable energy metering (aka "backward metering"). This backward metering comes at NO cost to the residential owner to ensure that the meters on their home are capable of accurately recording power sent back on-grid. There are also laws in place that state the electric company must pay the residential owner for the power they generate back to the grid (by subtracting it from their electric bill, etc).

Also, please, please, please look at your state incentives, rebates, offers, etc before you make a decision on renewable energy for your home. Go to http://www.dsireusa.org/ [dsireusa.org] to learn more about your state's assistance and laws.

The downfall of solar power generation back to the grid that many consumers do not take notice of, until it is too late, is that the price per KW they generate during the day is substantially cheaper than evening power costs. What does this mean? It means that the electric company will pay you an (almost) absolutely ridiculously low price for KW you generate and return to the grid during the day. Why? Because during the height of your power production with solar (middle of the day), the power draw from the grid is not at it highest, therefore they have surplus. In the end, you will still be paying for grid power in the evenings. Any alternatives? Yes. Obtain a battery bank and store/use your energy when you need it and keep the extra energy your system generates for yourself. Because the chances are that selling it back to the electric companies will not save you any more than you storing/using it yourself in the evening.

Re:a little extra info (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#23103478)

Not exactly.
In most states they pay you the retail price for power up until you reach a $0 bill. Once you hit the $0 bill they pay wholesale prices.

Re:a little extra info (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 6 years ago | (#23102900)

Germany apparently gets 15% of its energy from renewables [guardian.co.uk] because they guarantee a high rate of payback. They are actively trying to force their own hand to the point where they have to deal with the energy storage problem; in fact, the pricing structure practically guarantees that companies will be falling over themselves to provide storage solutions.

Re:a little extra info (2, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099406)

Could the grid handle everyone pumping electricity back into the grid, especially with such a technology as wind, where the amount of power generated tends to be "bursty". Could this backfire a large percentage (> 25%) of homes started doing this?
It already gives problems in areas like northern Germany and Denmark, where large quantities of wind power are installed. Wind force can drop from 4-6 bft (giving basically maximum output) to zero in a matter of minutes - that is barely enough time for conventional power production to step in, and may result in brown-outs or even black-outs. So yes we are talking about a serious issue here.

Solar has this issue as well, but bar a total solar eclipse even when clouds come, it will take quite a while for a spread-out set of solar cells to all become darkened, and even under clouds they produce quite some electricity.

Re:a little extra info (2, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099790)

That's why you use nuclear for base load and wind/solar for peak load and other tasks. Example: In the midwest of the US, we've been pumping fossil aquifers dry over the last 100 years (fossil aquifers don't replenish themselves like other aquifers do). During the day, huge windfarms covering the midwest should pump power into the grid of standard use, and at night they should pump power in the grid to charge electric vehicles. Unused power should be used to condense water from the air and pumped underground to replenish these aquifers we're pumping dry).

Renewable energy rule: Always have a dump load that has a purpose. Don't burn that valuable energy off as heat.

Re:a little extra info (2, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099934)

Euhm, you are almost totally wrong. Sorry to say it so, but it's the case.

Nuclear is great indeed for a base load: but that's it, base load. It can not easily be switched on or off like a coal or gas fired plant, which can change load in a matter of minutes.

Your idea of using some power dump is nice, but electrical vehicles are not the place. How are you ever going to switch on and off their charging for a start? When the wind falls, these chargers should be switched off. That requires some sophisticated communications, and is quite error prone. And how are you going to get to work after a windless night, or a gusty night where your charger is switched on and off but mostly off?

Power dumps could be cold storage warehouses, as discussed on Slashdot a few years ago (sorry, no link). Other power dumps, used already in e.g. France which is over-reliant on nuclear, could be pumping up water to the top of a hill during the night, and let it run down during the day when necessary.

Wind power is unstable, and we have to live with that. As nuclear is only a base load, wind may be used during the night to power the cold storage warehouses, which don't mind having no power for an hour or so. But during the day you will need back-up from conventional sources, just to maintain reliability. So far we haven't found a sufficiently reliable renewable energy source do do it otherwise.

On top of that power dumps are nice but also have limited capacity, both in absorption and release of energy on demand. They can cover fluctuations measured in time spans of minutes to hours maybe - not the longer term fluctuations such as a windless week.

Re:a little extra info (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100472)

Oh good god, where do I begin. Your post is so full of fail.

Euhm, you are almost totally wrong. Sorry to say it so, but it's the case. Nuclear is great indeed for a base load: but that's it, base load. It can not easily be switched on or off like a coal or gas fired plant, which can change load in a matter of minutes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_load_power_plant [wikipedia.org]

Base load (also baseload) is the minimum level of demand on an electrical supply system over 24-hours: the load that exists 24 hours a day.

A base load power plant (or base load power station) is one that is best suited to serving this load because it takes a long time to start up and is relatively inefficient at less than full output. These plants run at all times through the year except in the case of repairs or scheduled maintenance.

A base load power plant is not supposed to be "on-demand" power. Of course, to supplement base load, you're going to use Peaking Power.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_load_power_plant#Peaking_power_plant_usage [wikipedia.org]

Natural gas and oil power plants are much faster to start, but have much higher fuel costs. These plants are typically scheduled to handle peak power demands since they can be ready to supply power in 30 minutes or less. They are more expensive to operate than coal power plants, primarily due to higher fuel costs.

Hydroelectric power is the fastest to respond to increasing power demands, reaching full power in about two to three minutes. These plants can provide both base load and peak load demands for power at a relatively low cost, but are limited by the amount of water available and other considerations, such as water demand for municipal or irrigation sources, or the need to limit water discharge for flood control reasons.

Your idea of using some power dump is nice, but electrical vehicles are not the place. How are you ever going to switch on and off their charging for a start? When the wind falls, these chargers should be switched off. That requires some sophisticated communications, and is quite error prone. And how are you going to get to work after a windless night, or a gusty night where your charger is switched on and off but mostly off?
You don't switch their charging on and off. They charge at night. No communications are necessary.

http://www.pnl.gov/energy/eed/etd/pdfs/phev_feasibility_analysis_combined.pdf [pnl.gov]

Major utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric and Austin Energy have studied this and found since Plug-In Hybrids are generally plugged in at night, the grid already has the nighttime capacity to charge these vehicles. A January 2007 Pacific National Laboratory study showed that if we woke up tomorrow and all our vehicles could plug in, today's grid could already support 84% of them charging at night without building a single power plant.

Power dumps could be cold storage warehouses, as discussed on Slashdot a few years ago (sorry, no link). Other power dumps, used already in e.g. France which is over-reliant on nuclear, could be pumping up water to the top of a hill during the night, and let it run down during the day when necessary. Wind power is unstable, and we have to live with that. As nuclear is only a base load, wind may be used during the night to power the cold storage warehouses, which don't mind having no power for an hour or so. But during the day you will need back-up from conventional sources, just to maintain reliability. So far we haven't found a sufficiently reliable renewable energy source do do it otherwise. On top of that power dumps are nice but also have limited capacity, both in absorption and release of energy on demand. They can cover fluctuations measured in time spans of minutes to hours maybe - not the longer term fluctuations such as a windless week.
Frankly, my idea of using excess energy for replenishing dwindling aquifer resources is pretty pie in the sky. But otherwise, the US national grid can and will handle fluctuating renewable energy input, just as it handled base load maintenance now (bringing nuclear reactors offline, short term requirements met with natural gas turbines, etc). The wind is always blowing someplace in the US, and in the unlikely event it's not blowing somewhere, the sun is shining most of the day, water is flowing through hydro plants, and the list goes on. There is always power somewhere. Just move it where you need it.

Re:a little extra info (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101348)

A base load power plant (or base load power station) is one that is best suited to serving this load because it takes a long time to start up and is relatively inefficient at less than full output. These plants run at all times through the year except in the case of repairs or scheduled maintenance.

Which is one very good reason not to use nuclear power for base load: it goes off-line unpredictably and for long periods. Currently, both of Scotland's nuclear power stations have been off-line for more than two months, one for planned maintenance, the other for leaks. In the past three years both have been working at the same time for less than six months total.

Fortunately, we don't need them - we have so much hydro-electric and wind generation that even with the nuclear stations off-line we're still net exporters of electricity.

Re:a little extra info (2, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101428)

I'm unfamiliar with the nuclear power plants in Scotland, but I have to disagree with your statement that they go off-line unpredictably and for long periods (your case excluded). I surfed around the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission [http://www.nrc.gov/ [nrc.gov] ] website for half an hour, and the only failure of a reactor in the US was Three Mile Island [http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html [nrc.gov] ]. Other than that, most reactors in the US hum away day and night, some for over 20 years. Nuclear is a low-carbon power source, and it's not that dangerous if handled properly. Unfortunately, renewables aren't going to be able to supply 100% of our power (at least here in the US), so luckily we can fall back on nuclear to provide our base load reliably.

Re:a little extra info (0)

M-RES (653754) | more than 6 years ago | (#23103514)

Actually, nuclear produces about 75% as much CO2 as a coal or gas fired power station if you take into account EVERYTHING, such as the build, fuel enrichment, fuel transportation, waste storage etc etc etc. On top of that, we've no solution yet as to what to reallly do with that high level (or even low level) radioactive 'spent' material, and we're stuck with a byproduct with 100,000 year half life... nuclear's the PAST if we want to be serious about generating electricity sustainably.

Re:a little extra info (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101326)

Your idea of using some power dump is nice, but electrical vehicles are not the place. How are you ever going to switch on and off their charging for a start? When the wind falls, these chargers should be switched off. That requires some sophisticated communications, and is quite error prone.

Errr... it's being done already and has been being done for twenty years at least, in the UK. I know this because my firm has recently been involved in rewriting the software which drives it.

Essentially a signal is added to television broadcasts - in amongst the teletext data - which indicates to certain industrial plant when to switch on and off for cheaper electricity. A different signal can be broadcast by each regional transmitter, so you can switch on and off these 'energy dumps' on a regional basis. Systems which use the cheaper excess electricity are connected to a switch which picks up the television transmission and parses out the 'power available' signal.

On top of that power dumps are nice but also have limited capacity, both in absorption and release of energy on demand. They can cover fluctuations measured in time spans of minutes to hours maybe - not the longer term fluctuations such as a windless week.

One answer: Dinowig [fhc.co.uk]

Re:a little extra info (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23103438)

Isn't this why we have a national energy grid?

The wind may drop over some local area - but the average amount of wind spread over an area the size of an entire country is going to be much more stable and predictable.

You'd be able to see weather fronts moving across the country and reroute power as you predict windmills speeding up and slowing down as it goes past. For the average wind speed across the entire country to change strength would require a much more predicatable weather phenomenon that would enable conventional power plants to get up to speed in plenty of time.

Re:a little extra info (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101040)

it will take quite a while for a spread-out set of solar cells to all become darkened
the same could be said of wind of course. Even better : if you spread out your windmills across europe, energy production would be practically constant-> if the whole of europe(or the whole of the US) would be wind-free, that would be because : the sun would have stopped heating the earth AND the earth would have stopped rotating. (because wind is a side effect of the sun shining and the earth rotating) wind-free zones are very local.

Re:a little extra info (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#23103186)

Not an expert on this subject, but my understanding was that if 25% of homes are putting power onto the grid, then the centralized generators would just have to cut back by an amount equal to the amount being put in. Very often, this means little more impact than they simply use less coal. It would probably have to reach an extreme level of homeowners doing this to have any significant impact (to the point where a powerplant can't scale back production w/o increasing cost).

Re:a little extra info (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23099168)

While it is true that they have to pay you for the electricity you put back into the grid, the laws do not dictate how much they have to pay you. So, you pay 20K to put up a windmill, and they pay you 1/10 of a cent per kw/hr... yah, you'll be making that back REALLY soon. You might be lucky to amortize the cost of the installation with savings to your bill before the thing breaks down, but I doubt it.

Re:a little extra info (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099424)

In The Netherlands your electricity meter will simply run backwards at the moment you start feeding electricity to the network. It is not likely that you will actually produce more than you use yourself in the long run so you just save the cost of the electricity you produce.

Re:a little extra info (5, Interesting)

oneedge (1026096) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099516)

As a NERC certified generation dispatcher, I can tell you for certain that in most cases you will not make a profit putting power back to the US grid, and there's a chance that you may never actually get an investment fully recouped without a state and/or federal rebate or some other program. This doesn't mean that it's a bad idea - just do it for the right reason.

Some issues that a small "Qualified Facility" has to address:

How do you measure the power you're putting to the grid? The standard issue power meters only flow in one direction - they don't spin backwards when you're generating more than you're using. They usually require you to install a special meter that requires routine calibration by a licensed professional.

There's a morass of legal requirements that must be met before you can get paid. Additionally, states have the ability to (and usually do) regulate the profit out of small home renewable energy sources below a certain output level, such as small wind, solar, geothermal, micro-hydro, etc... And above a certain output and you become classified as an "Independent Power Producer" - which opens up a larger can of legal worms. The issues go on and on...

Bottom line - if you're looking at this as a "get rich quick" scheme, I'm afraid you're going to be sadly disappointed. However, it DOES help by taking the some of the burden off of the greenhouse-gas-spewing power plants, and offsetting your own personal load on an already overloaded grid. Make sure you do your homework for your state and take full advantage of any rebate programs or tax incentives offered.

Re:a little extra info (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100676)

You seem to be well versed due to being a generation dispatcher, so I hope it's OK I ask a question. =) Where would you get started if you wanted to be an independent power producer? Not small scale, I'm talking about 50,000 acres+ of GE 1-3MW wind turbines.

Re:a little extra info (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23100120)

If you're not from the US, you should know that we have a federal law here that if someone else adds electricity to the grid, they have to get paid by the power company per killowatt-hour.

Up to a point.

The actual history started when someone did a wind installation and found that excess generated power went back to the grid, as well as turning the meter backward. The local power company noticed, too. They came out and installed a ratchet on the meter. Their position was that, by running the meter backward, the owner was forcing them to buy power at -- HORRORS -- retail rates.

After enough of this foolishness, laws were put in place making the power companies honor the practice of users over-producing power. Of course, they managed to force in a provision that the users' electrical bills could never go below zero, thereby giving them a credit. So the power company reaps the benefit from the frugal (or admirably situated) people of all excess power returned to the grid.

Personally I'd arrange to disconnect when the break even point was reached. Why the hell should I work for free for them? I'm sure they have all sorts of laws prohibiting me from selling the excess to my neighbors -- safety, for the children, etc.

Same with the medical/pharma outfits -- Oh, please, give us your body to experiment on; give us the pint of blood for free, so we can sell it at the "value-added price" of a few hundred a pint. Fuck that shit -- it's only called "The Gift of Life" in the marketing blurbs because a gift is, by definition, given for free and with no strings attached.

Fuck 'em all.

Re:a little extra info (1)

antarcticemperor (1261916) | more than 6 years ago | (#23103636)

They don't have to pay you per kilowatt hour what they charge you for kw hour. Here, the local EMC just runs the meter backwards at teh same rate. If you're with GA Power, they pay you the same rate that they buy the electricity from the power plants. So you might get 10 cents on the dollar with the power company, and it'd be an even dollar for dollar swapout with the EMC. Ultimately it all depends on the rules your power company has about grid tie-ins.

Buying One Myself (5, Interesting)

Ferretman (224859) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099148)

This is a great topic and I'm glad to see it pop up here. I'll be buying a wind turbine for the new house I'm building here in a couple of months.

The reason has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with "being green" or "sticking it to the man". I'm greener than your average bear and have found that "sticking it to the man" rarely works as well as one might have hoped.

Quite simply, I'll be five miles back from the nearest power line. I poked around and considered solar, but the idea of getting power production 24/7 rather than 5 or 6 hours per day closed the deal for me. My property is in an excellent wind zone (Cat 4 thru Cat 6, depending on which map you look at) and I'll be able to provide 120% of my power needs--excellent. Being able to provide all of my own needs and not be dependent on an ever-more-fragile grid is just a bonus that appeals mightily to the geek in me.

Turbines overall are great, though I've become convinced the industry is still at the "hand-built and tuned" phase the automotive industry was once in. It'll need more standardization before it can go mainstream in any significant fashion.

Great technology though.

Ferretman

Re:Buying One Myself (1)

solafide (845228) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099490)

How will you deal with internet connection, out of curiosity?

Re:Buying One Myself (3, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099590)

Farms have been using wind power for centuries. If you have a bungalow at the sea side with permanent wind, then a simple DIY setup made from a 24V, 24 inch cooling fan for a stationery motor mounted on a post, can easily charge a 12V battery through a single diode to run lights and a small TV and the cost is really minimal if you keep it simple. My father did that for many years, till the grid finally caught up. (You need a diode, else you have a big cooling fan, instead of a charger...) If you are a geek with serious electricity needs, then you may need two or three of those, but that will still be cheaper than buying a single larger commercial unit.

Re:Buying One Myself (3, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100280)

I highly recommend some sort of battery charge controller. I happen to have used and like the MorningStar SunSaver models, but there are a wide variety out there. At $50 or so, they're not that expensive, and they'll make your battery last a lot longer, especially if you deep cycle it and let it charge completely often. A simple diode will work, but it will overcharge the battery and shorten its lifespan. Longer battery life will easily pay for the charge controller for most usage patterns.

Re:Buying One Myself (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100956)

My well guy does windmills on the side, and told me they're usually more of a PITA and expense than they're worth. I take this as a warning to shop very carefully for a *reliable* setup. Anyone have thoughts on specific brands and types?

Re:Buying One Myself (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101074)

Being able to provide all of my own needs and not be dependent on an ever-more-fragile grid is just a bonus that appeals mightily to the geek in me.

Except that you aren't independent from the grid - you still need parts and tools and supplies to maintain the turbine.

bigger is better (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23099348)

With bigger wind turbines, the amount of electricity one can produce grows faster than the cost. As a greedy bastard, I'd rather split one big one between many neighbors than get a small one for myself.

Re:bigger is better (1)

Loke the Dog (1054294) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101606)

Exactly, this is what happens in Sweden. We have pretty strict laws about connecting stuff to the grid etc, and I'd say thats a good thing. It forces those who want to invest to cooperate and buy one of those +1MW turbines. Their efficiency is so much better, the cost per kW is so much lower and because of the high investment, people are better at researching exactly where to put them.

Those small turbines are just a waste of materials, they can never compete with the big ones, and as such, they will never be good investments or truly green. They're only good for offloading the grid in extremely remote locations or for giving home owners that cozy DIY feeling.

Homebrew 700 Watt Wind turbine (3, Interesting)

drphilngood (827006) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099540)

Heres an interesting project that I have always wanted to try: http://www.otherpower.com/wardmil.html [otherpower.com]

20 years payback? WTF?? (2, Funny)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099804)

For a windcharger system? That's absurd...just out to lunch, 5 years is more like it, got to be something screwy going on here... /me checks specs on Acme wind turbines....

OK, spotted the problem right here down in the "included with package" list -> "100ft Acme MONSTER turbine cable"

People Power! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23099822)

Why use [somewhat unreliable] wind power when the sheer number of gyms around could add a new spin to the original definition of 'people power'? :)

There's a lot of energy being exerted into all that gym equipment and it all dissipates into nothing. Some cleverly placed generators and a gym could turn into a people power plant. ...just remember, you heard it here first ;)

Re:People Power! (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100006)

doing some basic numbers:

on my workout, i do 60 minutes at 103W, so 0.1KWhr. that the local rates, that's about 0.6 cents worth of electricity. assuming there's someone who is doing that all day every day, that's about 14 cents per day.

i do not think that is financially feasible.

Re:People Power! (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101578)

Put 100 people in it, that makes 14 dollar a day, plus memberships, overpriced beverages and expensive "healthy" food like every gym, than it become financialy intresting very fast.

Re:People Power! (1)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 6 years ago | (#23102056)

I think it's only financially interesting to the people who own the gym. Might be able to power the stereo in the aerobics room with power generated by the bike machines....

Re:People Power! (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101792)

just remember, you heard it here first

No, not really, this is an ancient idea, and has been done at least a couple of time, with probably not-so-great results.

Easier ways to make a much bigger impact (4, Interesting)

RobinH (124750) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099844)

Rather than generating more power a home, it's a lot easier to just use less. If you setup a rather simple energy monitoring system in your house (like $100 worth of equipment, etc.) you should be able to reduce your energy usage by 5% just through targetting. That includes using less water, gas, and electricity. Throw gasoline in there and you're really going to save money (and lower your carbon footprint).

If you really want to make a difference, spearhead an energy monitoring and targetting campaign at work. Disclaimer: I am in the business. Typical savings for industrial sites are in the 5 to 15% range, and for commercial sites are up to 25% savings. Find out how much your company spends on energy/utilities and you'll realize that's a big payoff. It's much bigger than installing some 0.5 m^2 swept area windmill that generates maybe 100W 30% of the time, and 500W 5% of the time, and needs an expensive inverter and lead acid batteries with limited life span.

If you are really stuck on doing something at home and you have air conditioning, you can get reasonably inexpensive 800W solar panels (they might generate 500W peak on a sunny day in northern climes) and then you could hook it directly to an old 12V marine air conditioner, with only a single 12V battery to balance the load. Then during really hot days you can generate electricity and use it immediately to cool your house, so you don't have the expense of storing the energy for later, and the expense (and maintenance and inefficiency) of an inverter to get back to 120 or 240VAC.

Variability and management problems (1)

$random_var (919061) | more than 6 years ago | (#23099886)

It becomes more difficult to predict power availability, requiring greater excess capacity on peaking plants. This is a standard operations management principle: the greater the variability in in supply (or demand) the (exponentially) more excess capacity is required to achieve a given service level.

In addition to the random fluctuations, the timing of these things may not be exactly what the grid needs. I know that in a lot of locations in California, the wind turbines supply their peak generation in the mornings and evenings, whereas peak consumption occurs in the early afternoon. Adding generation capacity in non-peak hours just doesn't make sense; you're taking load off of baseline generation that can handle all of the load at practically zero marginal cost. Utilities are building these wind plants in CA purely to abide by state rules requiring a certain percentage of electricity to come from renewable source... and, in the process, requiring construction of redundant plants to cover the inevitable shortfall in peaking capacity.

Re:Variability and management problems (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100720)

Yes, but...

Some of that power may be sold and distributed to places besides California. Think: Midwest and East Coast. Why there? Well, something about having 75 deg temps + 90% relative humidity at 4am in Houston, Chicago, Washington DC that makes people keep their ACs humming all night long. At least in most of California during the summer, it tends to cool off in the evenings.

Then there is some of the electrical demands placed by some users that do not necessarily depend on human peak usage times (i.e., agriculture to pump water and operate irrigation equipment).

The US still needs more power transportation and switching capacity.

California is just preparing for powering the canal or pipeline that will eventually get built at The Dalles, OR, in order to pump water from the Columbia River down to LA.

Re:Variability and management problems (1)

$random_var (919061) | more than 6 years ago | (#23100844)

That's true - but we need mechanisms in place to encourage consumption of electricity during those off-peak times. If there is a huge pipeline that requires a lot of electricity to power, the most economical way to equip a pumping station would be with small enough capacity that running it 24/7 is just enough (with safety capacity, of course). But then it will be consuming lots of peak electricity instead of just that delicious ecological off-peak-hours wind electricity. Until electricity is sold at different rates at different times, there's not a lot of incentive to differ from the normal usage patterns.

Transporting that power is not going to solve the problem either - I'll grant that it may help a bit, but transmission efficiency is a MAJOR problem, upgrading the lines and building new ones is a huge expense that adds to the price of the energy, and long transmission corridors have an environmental impact. Everybody likes to throw around the random statistic that a 90 x 90 mile solar plant in the southwest could power the whole nation, but the transmission obstacles make it a rather moot point.

Conservation first (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101420)

One does not exclude the other, but i have to wonder if energy conservation is not going to be more cost-effective for most people. In hot climates switching from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs (I'm finally starting to see them on the shelves now ) will save you a bunch of electricity in lighting and air condition. In colder climate's heat-pumps ( earth or air based ) can be a good investment.

Not saying wind turbines don't work, but unless you are already using energy efficient electronics and lighting, alternative means of heating, have state of the art insulation, there are probably better ways to save money/energy.

Wish I could actually put one up (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#23101844)

but conformity in neighborhoods is the rage today unless you can find a good home in a very old one. Basically I might be able to get away with solar panels because my S/SW side is away from the road. A windmill of any sort other than decorative would probably be shot down. It doesn't help that local and state governments aren't writing laws to encourage this type of development. Yet at the same time I understand that windmills are a special breed. I have friends who live near the big ones and they eventually got their house purchased by some agency. It will drive you flipping nuts.

So my questions are, how are these things in reality? Is there a noticeable and constant noise? Are there any actions taking place at the Federal level to encourage their use? Remember satellite dishes? Many localities even banned them until the Feds stepped in. HOAs backed by local enforcement made having the dishes impossible. It may be something that will be required to allow panels on rooftops everywhere. As for windmills, honestly only if they have no noise impact on the environment - the big units do make noise.

Before some twat throws out "thats what you get for living in a McMansion" just take a hike will ya. First the people who toss out terms like this come across as twats because thats what they are. They don't know the poster and don't even know reality. Buying a new home over the last few years made more financial sense than buying a resale. Many builders practically give them away now. The only issue is that most are in new neighborhoods which means you get an HOA with some type of rules that prevent certain oddities from cropping up. This is generally a good thing because it prevents junk cars, chain link fences, and having homes fall apart become the dominating factor the neighborhood. Plus if your smart you buy into a neighborhood without amenities like pools and tennis courts which do cost money.

Re:Wish I could actually put one up (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23103116)

Before some twat throws out "thats what you get for living in a McMansion" just take a hike will ya. First the people who toss out terms like this come across as twats because thats what they are.
Better a twat than a bleeding a$$hole such as yourself.

Anyway, its good to know that McMansions are a sore spot for their owners. But I won't hope that your neighborhood is converted back to cropland too quickly; that would be inhumane.

Re:Wish I could actually put one up (1)

Doug Neal (195160) | more than 6 years ago | (#23103166)

I had a similar problem putting my turbine and solar panels up. Eventually I had to put them up in the loft next to the TV antenna.

Making headway? (1)

T.E.D. (34228) | more than 6 years ago | (#23104600)

If your home wind-power turbine is making headway, you really need to attach it to the house better.

Or worse yet, attach your house to the foundation better.
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