FoxNews.com carried a recent column on dissatisfaction with small wind turbines in Nevada. While the article may have been factual, it failed to provide important context.
Although the small wind industry has installed more than 150,000 units in the U.S. in the last decade, it has continuously battled the problems of poor siting and untested turbine designs. Even proven, reliable turbines, when they are installed in poor wind resources–like most urban environments–underperform expectations. In addition, the wind is a very challenging operating environment for mechanical equipment, and untested designs often suffer failures.
The small wind industry, as Larry Sherwood of the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) mentions in the article, has moved forward with developing third-party test protocols, test facilities and an independent certification body that makes it possible for potential turbine owners and state incentive program managers to compare turbines based on a common set of tests. These should go a long way toward addressing the “buyer-beware” issue noted in the article.
The second part of a successful project is proper siting and installation. Underperformance of several of the examples in the article was due either to roof top installation in urban settings (often highly turbulent and inconsistent) or installation on short towers located too close to houses and trees. Because the energy in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed, it is essential that wind turbines be installed 300 feet from, and 30 feet higher than, any obstruction; experienced installers know this critical siting guideline. Furthermore, it’s always good practice to ask potential installers for references for their most recent installations.
The small wind industry is actively working with state incentive programs as well as local planning officials to educate them on best practices on turbine selection, siting, installation, and wind ordinances. There is good information on these topics at both AWEA.org and DWEA.org.
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