Wind Turbine Basics
How Wind Turbines are Used
Some smaller turbines can be mounted to the rooftop of your house, but vibrations from the turbine may be transferred to the frame of the building. Rooftop turbine mounts often come with rubber vibration dampers to minimize this problem. As a general rule however, the higher in the air you can get your wind turbine the more effective it will be, so independent, guyed towers are the recommended mounting system. The wide variety of available tower heights and styles makes it much more likely you will find a mounting kit to suit your needs.
When installing the controls and wiring of a wind generator, it is important to understand two fundamental differences between wind turbines and solar panels:
Current Rectifiers: Solar panels produce direct current (DC) electricity required by power storage batteries, and can be connected directly to the battery bank without causing harm. Wind generators do not produce DC electricity, so a device called a "recitifier" is used to convert the turbine's output current to DC.
Some turbines have a rectifier built in. In most cases though, the rectifier is supplied as a separate component that must be installed between the wind turbine and the battery. Often, the rectifier is combined with a charge controller into one complete wind turbine control unit.
Load Diversion: Solar panels are "passive" electricity producers. Even though the sun is shining, they only produce eletricity when a charge is needed by the battery. Wind generators are "active" electricity producers. If the wind is blowing, they will produce current whether the battery bank needs the charge or not. In order to prevent damage to the wind turbine, all of the electricity it produces must be "used" in some way.
When the system batteries need charging current, they provide an electrical
load to use the wind turbine's electricity. If the batteries are fully
charged, the turbine's output must be "diverted" to another
Some wind turbines have charge control features built-in, diverting their own excess current and allowing it to dissipate as heat through the wind turbine housing. In most turbine systems however, the charge controller is an external unit, and while DC rectifiers are always included as part of a basic wind turbine package, the load diverting controller may not be.
Some load-diverting charge controllers come with a heat-sink resistor
to attach as the diversion load. When the batteries reach full charge,
the load-diverting controller will simply send electricity to this resistor,
where the energy will be released as heat. Some wind turbines have diversion
features built into the turbine body itself, and the turbine's outer shell
acts as a heat sink for the excess power. Many charge controllers allow
you to use the diverted current for other uses, such as running a water
heating coil, a ventilating fan or a space heating system, making the
wind generator an even more useful and efficient source of power.
Types of Wind Generators
The primary consideration in a wind generator is the average wind speed
at the installation site. A different turbine will give optimum performance
at a site with average wind speeds below 15mph than one at a site with
speeds in the low 20mph range. Generally, low speed generators will either
have longer rotor blades or a larger number of short, wide blades to maximize
power drawn from minimal wind. High speed generators may be built of more
durable material, and will have narrow, relatively short blades to minimize
potential rotor damage in extremely high winds.
Benefits of Wind Energy
Wind generators require relatively little maintenance, but it is recommended that the generator receives annual visual check-ups to ensure the propeller blades haven't been damaged. If the turbine is located in a good spot it's very unlikely to be damaged by any flying debris, but a chipped or cracked blade can be a hazard should it break completely, and a chipped or damaged blade will also negatively affect the turbine's performance.
Wind turbines are very useful in almost any marine or household electrical system. In marine use, the movement of the boat will raise enough breeze to get the generator turning even when actual winds are fairly low, making them an extremely reliable source of on-board power. For residential systems, wind power can be a wonderful source of power during low-light winter months and even year-round, depending on the site. They can also be configured to power dedicated water pumping systems, which may be of particular interest to individuals currently without running water.
For commercial and industrial use, wind turbines are particularly useful in rugged remote locations such as mountaintop repeater stations or offshore oil platforms. High elevation and offshore or seaside remote sites often have fairly high year-round wind current that will make the most of wind generation systems. Industrial grade wind generators are available to withstand the worst storm winds present at such sites.
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