Look up there, on the rooftop! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a wind-powered whirlybird!
Many of you may have seen wind farms or heard of wind power’s potential. It doesn’t stop in the fields a more and more commonly seen item on rooftops happens to be the propeller-like turbines on a smaller scale, of course. Are we ready to utilize this power residentially, though? It may come down to where you live, or it may come down to research and development flaws. All wind turbines vibrate, and they transmit this vibration to the structure on which they’re attached. All rooftops create turbulence that interferes with the wind turbine’s operation. Even if engineers were able to design a sophisticated dampening system that isolated the wind turbine from the structure, they couldn’t eliminate the power robbing and damaging turbulence created by the building.
An extreme, but not uncommon, example of the damage wind turbines can do to anything they’re directly attached to comes from New York, where a homeowner’s Air turbine destroyed itself on a stormy night before crashing through his roof. He decided not to replace it.
So rooftop turbines, while a great idea, need some tweaking before we can expect to see them dotting rooftops all around town. Wind farms, however, have experienced much more success.
“Wind power has an enormous potential,” said Lester Brown, author of Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth. “According to a U.S. Department of Energy wind resources inventory, three of the most wind-rich states North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas have enough harnessable wind energy to satisfy national electricity needs. China can double its current electricity generation from wind alone. Europe’s offshore wind potential is sufficient to meet the continent’s electricity needs.”
Advances in wind turbine design have reduced electricity costs from 38¢ per kilowatt-hour in the early 1980s to 4 to 6¢ at the best wind sites now. That is the best possible figure from the best possible conditions in the best possible wind-farm locations, and should not be used in figuring actual costs for the rooftop turbine variety.
The lowered costs are due to higher efficiencies, improved rotor design, and variable speed operation, to name a few. However, smaller system costs vary significantly, with installed costs at around two to three thousand dollars per installed kilowatt.
So is wind energy the wave of the future? It IS the fastest-growing energy source, after all. Take a look at these advantages and disadvantages of wind power:
What it comes down to is that wind is intermittent regardless of location. It doesn’t always blow when electricity is needed, just as it doesn’t always blow when you’re stuck in the middle of the river in your little sailboat. Regardless of the downside, don’t forget the state of emergency our planet is approaching. It just makes good sense to explore every option that seems plausible, especially if it’s an option that goes far beyond plausible. This is a proven success story in optimal conditions, but further research is necessary to provide this on a residential scale all over the world.
A good case for the benefits of wind power can be found at http://www.pink-globalwarming-awareness2007.com/2007/01/21/wind-power/ if you have further questions.
Additional sources: www.wind-works.org