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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've delved into the idea of installing some sort of wind turbine on my property, to have some emergency power capabilities. I'm not looking to power my whole house, but rather just the essentials like to run the furnace, fridge, well pump, hot water heater. Not that I necessarily will need them all at one time , but at least to have power to take a hot shower, keep warm, keep food from spoiling ,when needed. Notice I didn't mention the stove or lights. I consider those to be secondary considerations, and could make due without electricity in those regards. Anyway, as I mentioned, are wind generators a plausible solution, or are they all hype and not up to the task?
 

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Wind turbines

You are probably looking at a capital expense of 30-50K (including inverter). Solar panels on the roof with battery backup might be a better option unless you have a dependable stream capable of producing year round stream flow.
 

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Wind power is very site specific. One spot might be great while another only a hundred yards away would be terrible. They sell a kit that records wind speed and direction. You need to put it right where you plan to put the windmill and see what it says. You must have X amount of wind for Y hours a day or you are wasting your money. Also remember that the wind changes with the seasons. Numbers that looked good in the spring might not be there in the dog days of summer.

Just my 2 cents.
 

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I agree that solar panels for electricity and a solar water heater system would be more efficient than wind depending on where you live. I see a lot of commercial wind turbines in west Texas while driving (at a legal 80 MPH) along Interstate 10. Did you know Texas is the largest producer of wind power in the US (even more than California)?
 

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I looked into a turbine. It would take 15 years to return my investment. I prefer mutual funds (quicker return). Keep your eye open for a diesel gen set. Cheaper, and it works when the wind isn't blowing.
 

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I have looked at some of these smaller wind generators and I am not very impressed.

I have a feeling that I could use the old wind powered well design (once popular all over the Midwest) and use a belt driven reduction system to run a series of 12 volt automobile alternators to greater effect.

The trick would be weather proofing the entire thing.
 

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I'd consider looking into a gasoline generator to meet your needs. Easier, less expense up front, and you can get one to suit your budget and specific power requirements. After the warranty expires or you tire of storing gasoline, look into a propane conversion (see link below). Conversion isn't very expensive or difficult, and makes fuel storage and cost a more manageable prospect. I'll be converting my 15kw Generac once my warranty expires....



http://www.propane-generators.com/

BeSwift
 

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Wind power is very site specific. One spot might be great while another only a hundred yards away would be terrible. They sell a kit that records wind speed and direction. You need to put it right where you plan to put the windmill and see what it says. You must have X amount of wind for Y hours a day or you are wasting your money. Also remember that the wind changes with the seasons. Numbers that looked good in the spring might not be there in the dog days of summer.

Just my 2 cents.


Second that - bad siting is a very expensive mistake!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Wind Power

This is why I posted this message. I have read alot of negatives concerning wind powered generators. I would probably be better served to find some other power solution.

My power concerns are merely for the outage after a storm scenario where we would need power until the juice comes back on. I am not really concerned with recouping any investment money, however I am not about to drop several thousand $ on a system thats only going to be used sparingly. I'd probably be better served wiht a gas generator as was mentioned. I do however loathe the idea of storing large amounts of gasoline. that will have to always be refreshed.

A homemade wind generator has merit, if only I had the knowhow to do it.
 

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Poonie, for what you are doing I would think the gas generator is the way to go. I keep a couple15 gal drums in the shed. Every few months I fill up my car from the drum then replace it. That keeps it fresh. Last week the power went out in our whole county. Some places the power wasn’t back up till 08:00. My 5.5KW generator ran all night on 5 gal. of gas.

A couple years ago we lost power for over a week due to a bad ice storm. Then I only ran the generator for a few hours at a time several times a day to keep the fridge and freezer cold and run the well pump so we could take hot showers and flush toilets. (My stove, hot water and furnace are all natural gas.) Used about 35 gal of gasoline that week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Wind turbines.

Yes, I may just have to purchase a gas generator. I was on an informative website last night form a gentleman who constructed his own wind turbine. I did not realize that alot more goes into one of those things than just a generator, some wires, a battery and an invertor. You need a load controller, and a dummy load for the motor to dump excess power to when the batts are charges, etc. And then this person could only power a laptop, and I think an electric razor. For all that effort, the rewards were small. There's no way that I would get what I need from one of those setups. I'll probably bite the bullet and buy the gas generator and have an electrician rig a pig tail into my home's electric box so I can switch to the generator when the power goes out.

All this hype about wind power seems to be just that, hype! The benefits fall far short of expense and effort.
 

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Something else is that if you tell an electrician that you want to plug a generator into your house he will probably not wire it up for you. Not without a very expensive power transfer box. The reason is that if you do not turn off the main breaker to the house first and start your generator you will be sending power back out through the whole neighborhood. If a lineman is out there he could get zapped. More likely you will be trying to power up the whole neighborhood and your little generator will just drop to its’ knees and die.

You could just tell him you want to plug in a 220V grinder you picked up. That it will be for a 30 amp service with a locking type plug. That is the kind you plug in and turn to keep them from falling out. But that would be wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

BUT ALWAYS REMBER. The FIRST thing you do when hooking up your generator is kill the main breaker to the house. That is normally the top one in the panel located in the center. And the last thing you do when shutting down, after you have disconnected your generator, is turn that breaker back on. If you switch it on and your gen is still plugged in you will fry it right there.

If you have the money to spend Homedepo and others have a very nice setup they can install for around $2,500, last time I looked, that runs on natural gas and will automatically start up and put itself on the line when the grid goes down. Then disconnect and shut down by itself when power is restored. Very cool. I have lusted after one for some time but have never gotten one.
 

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Well I'm on propane and have been without electricty for up to a week. No issues. Modern wall furnaces continue to cycle on and off with no electrical connection (I'm embarassed to admit I don't know how that works - but it does). Stove - I needed to light it manually with no electricity - no biggie. Gas powered water heater - doesn't need electricity either. I have a hand crank radio. No TV - who really cares? No gunboards - well that bummed me out a bit....but basically no worries, except keeping food cold. You don't absolutely need that - you can always go with canned and fresh food. There must be some way around the problem that's cheaper and more reliable than wind....BTW, as far as cooking, keep your outdoor gas grill filled and you've got 60-80 meals worth of fuel. As far as communications in the event phone is out - there's always satelite internet, and there are cheap portable solar systems that will at least power a satelite box. A laptop can be charged off of a car battery if you have a cigarrette lighter adapter. All cheaper than a windmill, if you're not trying to go it alone for months or years. Of course I live in California, so there's a limit to just how severe the elements can get.
 

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I've delved into the idea of installing some sort of wind turbine on my property, to have some emergency power capabilities. I'm not looking to power my whole house, but rather just the essentials like to run the furnace, fridge, well pump, hot water heater. Not that I necessarily will need them all at one time , but at least to have power to take a hot shower, keep warm, keep food from spoiling ,when needed. Notice I didn't mention the stove or lights. I consider those to be secondary considerations, and could make due without electricity in those regards. Anyway, as I mentioned, are wind generators a plausible solution, or are they all hype and not up to the task?
Try this link if your state is listed here.

http://www.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/windpoweringamerica/wind_maps.asp

There are also country wide wind maps. Depending on where you live, you may or may not be successful.

Ebay has some inexpensive wind turbines. If your location permits, combined with solar and a diesel genset, wind makes a good energy package.

Chris
 

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These might be worth looking into.
Saw this on some TV show this summer and wrote it down as a "look into someday". I know nothing about it yet, other then it sounded good, works in low wind, doesn't over speed and can be mounted horizontally and probably a whole lot less intrusive (visually) then the standard wind turbine with those huge blades..
http://www.aerotecture.com
For the past several years theres been a small building in my town with a couple helix turbines. Up until I saw the show I thought they were some weird weather station wind speed monitors.
I think their focus was for urban settings especially commercial buildings in big cities, but as with most things once bugs are worked out and the technology perfected I'm sure it will have viable residential uses.

I'm sure too there are several other companies working on these (helix) designs.
 

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Amps is amps.... any way you cut it. Wind generated power goes for just under $4 a rated watt hour and up, solar starts at about $7 a rated watt hour and goes up with mounts. The only question is which system in your situation puts the most amps in a battery for the cheapest cost. The batteries and controlers are the same, and cost extra for both systems , and required if you expect to operate off the grid.
For solar you are only going to get rated watts under very specific conditions without adding a somewhat expensive sun tracking mounts. Maybe full rated power for two hours on a sunny clear day, and somewhat reduced output thru the rest of suns arc on a fixed mount.
For wind you are only going to get rated output if the wind blows above a certain threshold speed depending on the model ect, but the wind can blow in the night.. bruuuhahahahha...

If you are serious about doing this my suggestion is to get about $1500 bucks worth of solar or about 200 watts worth, $1500 worth of wind power or about 400 watts, spend another $1500 on about 400 amp hours of batteries, proper controlers, an energy sink, an interface box for the house and proper instalation and put little total input type amp meters in line to record how many amps each of the two options , wind and solar, generate under your local conditions. You will also learn enough to wisely and inexpensively discover the relative pro's and cons of each option while creating a small totally off the grid system that can still provide a useable amount of power in the meantime. This will allow you to have something until you decide what you need to create a complete off grid system.
Local conditions are so variable, this is about the only way I can think of to really truely know what is the better option. Typically you will find , as an average, wind speeds are slower and less frequent during the summer when solar is more available with longer days, more sunnier days, and higher sun angles , and that winds are stronger and more frequent in the winter when solar suffers from shorter days, more cloudy weather, lower sun angles.
Both combined, with other system possibliities , water power , regular and LP generators, a little power from here, a little power from there type set up, will probably work better in the long run than some monolithic single source system.
When it comes to generators you can multifuel your generators to run off any number of fuel options , biodesiel, alcohol , LP , hydrogen, woodgas, what have you fuelwise, that you can "make at home" as well as gasoline.
What I haven't looked into is steam power... for me, with all the trees here, that is something I really need to check out..... http://www.mikebrownsolutions.com/20hpse.htm. A 20 HP engine will run a 10 Kw generator.. thats only a $1 a watt for all the gear .. steam engine , generator , batteries , controler ...... what I don't know is fuel use and tending requirerments... convience and transparency.. the pro's and cons outside of price.. I suspect some sort of shelter or outbuilding wood storage and generator protection.. noise levels .. but it looks promising price wise... also you can pick up twigs, as they say, for fuel, but you need relatively clean water in quanity.. that might be harder.. or not depending on your location.
 

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Don't forget steam power http://www.mikebrownsolutions.com/20hpse.htm priced under $1 a rated watt , 20HP is about 10 Kw a cord of wood is about 3000 Kw which translates into about 25000 amps @ 120 volts assuming a 50% system overall efficency.
 

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Steam power

Remember that steam power is not efficient in our case. It may be inexpensive if cord wood is "free" but the overall thermodynamic efficiency is low. This matters, as you might expect, the energy can be better used for something else (heating?). In our case, 10% is a "good" system. Can you imagine using oil to power a home based steam generator at that level of efficiency?

Sure, powerplants operated by your local utility exceed 50% efficiency. So can a very large turbo diesel engine! If you are going to consume fuel producing energy for home, a proper size diesel cannot be beat. Cost per KWH may be 3-4 times the utility costs though. Remember that the utility co pays much less for fuel than you do and they are much more efficient.

I like the combo of a slow speed diesel, solar and wind for off grid applications. It ain't cheap!

Chris
 

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The first time I have stuck my nose in this forum, but the subject caught my eye. Over a large part of my career, I have done a lot of work related to fossil fuel plants (and a bit of nuclear, too.) I have studied and messed around with a lot of do-it-yourself power ideas over the years.

What do I use for stand-by power? I use a 5.5 kW alternator with a gasoline powered Tecumseh. Cheapest and most practical.

Steam? I have a lot of wood on my land. Some people may visualize a cozy little fireplace fire. Nope. It takes a lot of fire to make any practical amount of horsepower. Without an automated feed system and a coal barge or cord wood truck to supply it - you would die of exhaustion stoking the firebox. You could fire it with oil but you would be better of buying gasoline (or diesel) for a conventional internal combustion set-up.

Windmills? Those have been discussed in the previous posts. Some practicality in some places.

Solar? Pretty well discussed already. What if your power is out for a week and it stays cloudy? Oh, those storage batteries won't last a lifetime, either. Like the windmills, some practicality in some places.

Water power? This is actually a really practical idea. Of course, it's only practical if you have a large enough stream with enough fall. I might be able to power a doll house with the stream I have on my land!

Anyhow, this is not meant to be a rant - I've just studied most of the alternative power ideas over the last 30 - 35 years and often discuss these points with the far left "green" people. We are in for real energy challenges in the future. Oh, again, just go to Home Depot and buy a generator!
 
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