Posts Tagged wind turbine

Wind Turbine Cost Effectiveness

Posted by on Monday, 16 January, 2012

Calculating the payback period of a wind turbine requires accurate information about the average winds in an area, the lifespan of the turbine, and any additional setup and permit costs. Some wind turbines produce enough power to repay their setup costs within a few years, while other turbines may take decades to earn a profit for their owners. In some cases, a wind turbine has an infinite payback period, as it never returns its setup costs.

An article from the Medill School gives some examples of turbines in the last category. One homeowner set up a $5000 turbine, but because of the small amount of wind power it collects, he does not expect it to earn him $5000 before its expected life span ends.

Another article gives an example of a wind turbine that requires a more dedicated investment. Instead of a small, $5000 turbine that sits on the roof, the homeowner can build a $50,000 turbine that sits on its own tower. NYSERDA estimates that the $50,000 turbine requires another $12,500 in setup costs, and potentially adds $50-$150 per year in maintenance expenses. The maintenance expenses do have some impact on the payback period when it is relatively long. If the wind turbine provides $2500 worth of power each year, $62500/$2450 is 25.5 years, while $62500/2350 is 26.6 years. The extra $100 per year in maintenance adds about a year to the payback period.

Wind collection is much more important. If the homeowner selects a location that offers stronger wind, raising the value of the power the wind turbine provides to $5000 per year, the payback period drops significantly. Maintenance costs become drastically less important. $62500/$3950 is 15.8 years, while $62500/$3850 is 16.2 years, and the higher maintenance expense estimate now only adds about a third of a year to the payback period. According to NYSERDA, a wind speed increase of only 2 mph per hour, from 12 mph to 14 mph, can generate enough additional power to cut the wind turbine payback period by 10 years.

Unfortunately, many locations around the United States do not offer 14 mph winds. Wind Powering America provides a map of the United States that gives detailed information on average wind speeds in every state.
Some states, such as Wyoming and Colorado, include many locations with plentiful wind power, but the West and the Southeast tend to provide lower wind speeds. Many islands also report high average wind speeds. This map reports winds at a height of 80 meters, a typical height for large turbines on wind farms, although a homeowner typically installs a smaller and cheaper 30 meter tall turbine instead. Tower height makes a drastic difference in the amount of wind power a turbine can collect. Compare the Missouri average wind speed maps at 30 and 100 meters.

Flying Wind Turbines

Posted by on Friday, 3 December, 2010

Wind farms already provide power in many locations across the United States, but most of these turbines are attached to ground based structures. Stronger winds high above the earth have the potential to provide much more energy for a wind turbine to capture. The main problem is getting a wind turbine off the ground and keeping it in the air without using too much additional power.

Kites are one way to get the wind turbines up in the air. The wind turbines are only useful when the wind is blowing strongly, which means that there will also be enough wind to keep a kite aloft. According to Unity College, a wind turbine attached to a kite can operate at five times the maximum altitude of a ground based turbine, which provides twice as much power to the power plant on the ground.

Another method of getting the wind turbine in the air without using up additional power is attaching it to a blimp. The blimp is filled with helium, so it is lighter than air and does not need to have the wind blowing to stay up in the sky. Another advantage of a blimp is that it can hold a heavier turbine than a kite can.

There are several reasons why an airborne wind turbine is more effective than a ground based turbine. The wind flow on the ground is not consistent, and wind often comes in from a direction that does not allow a fixed turbine to easily capture it. According to Worchester Polytechnic Institute, at higher altitudes, the wind blows in the same direction for long periods of time, and it keeps blowing at a high speed. A mobile platform, such as a kite or a blimp, can also change its orientation in the air so that it can collect the maximum amount of wind energy. It is possible to use computer software to automatically launch or control the kite or blimp as well.

Another major advantage of an airborne turbine is its reduced cost. A ground based turbine may be several hundred feet tall. This means that the wind farm owner must build a support structure out of metal to prop up each turbine. The support structure does not produce any energy itself, but it does require a lot of energy to mine the metal and build the structure. A blimp or a kite is made out of thin cloth, so the main cost of the project is the turbine itself. Airborne turbines can produce much more power than ground based turbines with the same amount of cash investment.

Wind Turbine Payback Period

Posted by on Thursday, 1 July, 2010

Wind turbines can produce power cheaply after their installation. The question is whether it is cost effective to install them in the first place. Tax credits and other government subsidies reduce the cost of wind power. The larger scale the wind turbine is, the more efficient it is. According to Iowa State University, smaller scale systems can cost up to $3000 per kilowatt, while mid scale systems range from around $1500 to $2500, and the largest scale utility wind farms cost $1000 to $2000 a kilowatt.

As with all payback periods, borrowing money increases the payback period. Loans at a higher interest rate over longer periods of times greatly increase the payback period, although the calculation also includes the tax benefits of deducting interest expense paid on the loan to build the wind turbine. The wind turbine owner may also depreciate the cost of the wind turbine for federal and state tax purposes, including using accelerated depreciation methods such as MACRS. Penn State University provides an example of a turbine owner using a 5 year MACRS depreciation scheme. Wind turbines usually last longer than five years, although the IRS does allow machines to be depreciated for tax purposes over a shorter period than their actual lifespan. The government can also allow accelerated depreciation as a method of providing a subsidy. Wind turbines may be eligible for other federal benefits such as the REPI Credit and the Federal Production Tax Credit.

Battery storage greatly increases the cost per kilowatt hour for wind power, as it does with solar power and other intermittent sources of renewable energy. According to Iowa State, using battery storage can increase cost to $5000 a kilowatt, since a large battery can cost thousands of dollars. Grid redesign for utility power systems reduces these costs for large projects. A utility also uses several sources of power, likely including nonrenewable energy sources, so it may be able to use all of the wind power without purchasing extra storage equipment at the time of generation. If other factors are not considered the cost directly corresponds to the cost per kilowatt of the system. A system that costs twice as much per kilowatt will take twice as long to pay off.

Some projects that use wind power are not as time sensitive as other projects. Powering appliances in the home usually requires electricity at all times. A project such as using wind power to pump water for cattle does not need constant power, as long as the wind provides enough energy to fill up a tank that holds enough water for several days. Charging a battery can be performed over night, so the wind may vary in strength over night and still provide sufficient power.

Other expenses should be considered when calculating the payback period. According to Iowa State, an annual insurance premium is an important expense to include, since the turbines are valuable enough to require expenses. 2 or 3 percent of the purchase cost in maintenance expenses should also be part of the budget.

Since wind power is intermittent, some users may purchase turbines with a greater capacity than they can use at one time. Having twice or even three times as much maximum power for the same cost may be favorable to purchasing batteries. This setup requires a connection with the utility power grid for two reasons. The turbine owner will have the option of purchasing backup power when there is no wind. Some utilities also allow the turbine owner to sell power back to the utility. Not all utilities allow this and the turbine owner will have to purchase an inverter to use this method. Selling power back to the utility does generate income, so it should be considered when calculating the payback period.

The Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium

Posted by on Thursday, 1 July, 2010

The Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy are creating a project to install wind turbines along the East Coast. This project primarily focuses on wind energy, and the consortium also plans to establish solar plants and other renewable energy sources such as wave power and ocean thermal.

Offshore wind energy has the potential to supply a great amount of power. According to the State of Massachusetts, 900,000 Megawatts of energy are available for capture offshore, which is equivalent to the total amount of energy that all current power plants in the United States produce. Wind power alone has the capability to remove the dependence on fossil fuel for power plants in the United States.

Wind turbine installations are currently only present on land in the United States, according to the State of Massachusetts. There are large wind turbine installations in the United States right now, some of the well known ones are in Oregon, California, and Texas. An offshore wind turbine installation also provides a way for a smaller state to produce power and sell it to utility users in other states, without the large land area that inland installations often require.

The Department of Energy provided a grant of $20 million to an offshore wind project in Maine. The team, led by researchers at the University of Maine, has already found several promising locations to set up the offshore wind generation systems. This system will include a network of floating wind turbines, which are currently rare worldwide. According to the State of Maine, criteria necessary to set up the floating wind turbines successfully include at least 17 mph average wind speed throughout the year and a depth of at least 60 meters. The turbines do float freely in the water in an area selected for high winds, so it is also important that the state controls the entire body of water and there are no rocks, oil platforms, or other obstacles nearby.

The Nordic Wind Power Company

Posted by on Sunday, 30 May, 2010

Nordic Wind Power is receiving a federal loan guarantee. This will ensure that the company has the funds to develop its wind turbine technology. The company’s main claim to fame is its two blade wind turbines. Looking at the picture on Nordic’s home page, their turbines require much less material than the turbines of competitor companies, which means that their cost of production is a lot less. A smaller turbine design also has a lower visual footprint, which is a great advantage when homeowners in wealthy communities block the installation of wind turbines because they are afraid the turbines will decrease their land value.

The two blade system provides other advantages. A design with less material is also lighter. This means that a less powerful crane is necessary for the installation, and reduces other construction costs. The 70 meter tall tower will also cause less damage if it falls down, although hopefully that won’t happen. According to Nordic, a two blade wind turbine also produces less noise than a three blade turbine. I’m guessing that this design also creates less interference with other signals. A large wind farm in Oregon was blocked for months because the Air Force was concerned about interference with its radar project, so this technology might also provide advantages in that area.

According to Green Tech Media, wind turbines have a weakness because they do not provide a spinning reserve. This isn’t an insurmountable flaw. Another project with federal loan guarantees is Beacon’s flywheel system which stores energy using the spinning flywheels. Combining these projects is a great idea. Renewable power generation will require the use of several methods to provide power which is as reliable as oil and gas. A combination of cost efficient wind turbines and flywheels to store power and distribute it over a period of time provides great advantages for any city that wants to create clean energy. The government is funding Beacon Power’s smart grid, Nordic’s wind turbines, and Solyndra’s solar panels at the same time, and a combination of these energy generators and power storage systems creates synergies that will make these projects cost efficient methods of generating electricity.

The Bladeless Tesla Turbine

Posted by on Saturday, 8 May, 2010

Wind turbines provide power in many locations, and are under construction throughout the US and throughout the world. Regulators sometimes block wind turbine installations, for two main reasons: The turbine blade can harm birds, and the blade spins around which disrupts some types of radar. A design originally sketched out by Nikola Tesla a hundred years ago eliminates these issues by creating a disk turbine that collects wind energy without requiring a blade.

It’s possible to build a tesla turbine at home with spare parts. A researcher at the University of Washington constructed a tesla turbine from hard drive platters. A hard drive already includes a platter that spins around, so it is already useful for building the turbine. This researcher encases the hard drive in a ceramic casing to hold it in place, and then attaches it to a shaft. Compared to the size of most windmills, this isn’t very big, although it should be possible to attach several of these systems to a rack to create a home made tesla turbine array. According to the University of North Texas, larger tesla turbines are not as efficient as other large windmills, but the smaller tesla turbines are very effective, so they are useful to power smaller sensors and machines that do not require large amounts of power.

The tesla turbine is not in major production because of materials science issues when it was invented. According to The University of Texas, a tesla turbine disk has to be able to stand up to high temperatures. Ceramics and metals found in technology such as hard drive platters allow the original turbine plan to be implemented. According to the University of Texas page, it is even possible to create a microturbine with a wooden disk, although you won’t see the type of performance you can get with other materials.

Tesla turbines are under development by labs funded by the US military. These turbines are very effective at small sizes, so they are portable and lightweight enough to be carried by individual soldiers. This is very useful, especially in battlefields located in windy areas such as the desert. Solar power is possible at night through solar thermal plants, but those aren’t portable, and a tesla turbine is. Tesla turbines provide a source of energy for hikers, travelers, forest rangers, and anyone else who is taking a trip on foot and doesn’t want to carry around heavy batteries.

The Wind Farms of Oregon

Posted by on Friday, 30 April, 2010

A large field of wind turbines at Shepherds Flat is under construction in Oregon. The project is nearing completion, and was blocked by the federal government. The claim was that it might interfere with an Oregon radar installation. Now the federal government has withdrawn its opposition and decided to spend additional money upgrading the radar system so that it will function with the wind turbines operating nearby. The wind farm project is now under way once more.

Continuation of the wind farm is a Bipartisan Project. Both of Oregon’s Democratic Senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, supported this project, along with Republican Congressman Greg Walden. This farm will definitely help Oregon, which is suffering one of the highest rates of unemployment during the financial crisis.

The Shepherds Flat project is one of the largest proposed wind farms in the country, providing more than eight hundred megawatts of power at peak output. Companies are considering installing several other large wind farms in the area, near Arlington, Oregon. Arlington, with about five hundred residents, is famous for its mayor who stripped down to her underwear and posed on top of a fire engine. The mayor lost her next election over that incident, but only by three votes. This is a rural county, with the Columbia River which separates Oregon and Washington on its north border, so a large wind farm with more than three hundred turbines provides a very large economic boost to the local region.

Many wind farms are located in an area called the Columbia Plateau. This area is exposed to strong wind and may provide enough power for several states in the west. The Oregon coast is also a great source of wind energy, according to the Bureau of Land Management. Oregon, California, Washington, and other western states have passed state laws requiring power to be supplied by renewable sources in the near future. More surveys and regulations are required for major wind farms, and the Shepherds Flat proposal is one of the largest. According to Oregon Climate Change, farms that generate less than a hundred and five megawatts may apply to the county authorities for regulatory approval, and larger projects such as the Shepherds Flat plant must get state approval from the Oregon Department of Energy.