From breeze to kilowatts

There are a plethora of reasons for you to invest in renewable energy. With that in mind, we took a dive into the morass we call the Web in search of practical, zero-cost, noncommercial, registration-free Web resources that can provide you with some insight about wind power to generate electricity for your plant.

By Russ Kratowicz

It’s no wonder businesses all over the globe want to establish a market in China. With more than 13 times the population of the United States, China has the potential to become an awesome economic powerhouse. But energy consumption is a key factor that determines a country’s standard of living. What will happen to global energy prices as the Chinese population finally achieves a standard similar to what we currently enjoy? It’s frightening, for us and for them.

Global warming is another concern. Stationary sources and vehicles are targets of legislation that seeks to limit the amount of fumey nastiness gushing out of smokestacks and exhaust pipes. But, I’ve always been curious about why we never hear mention of the combustion products jet airliners spew 30,000 feet above our heads. Consider that Boeing’s Web site reports the 747-400 uses 53,985 gallons of fuel to go 1,805 nautical miles. Figure out the math yourself.

No doubt, you’ve heard about New Jersey embracing the idea of purchasing electrical power using a reverse auction. Open bidding is supposed to be the best way to establish true market value for a product. The results of that auction process imply that, if nothing else, the electrical power we’ve been buying for so long is somewhat underpriced.

Let me tell you, friends, industry in this country needs enough renewable energy to move petroleum into a museum next to the buggy whips. Using that idea as a launch pad, we took a dive into the morass we call the Web in search of practical, zero-cost, noncommercial, registration-free Web resources that can provide you with some insight about wind power to generate electricity for your plant. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.

An organization

You’ve got to love a Web site that tells us “the total amount of electricity that could potentially be generated from wind in the United States has been estimated at 10,777 billion kWh annually -- three times the electricity generated in the U.S. today.” Such is the outlook promoted by the American Wind Energy Association, Washington, D.C., a national trade association representing developers, manufacturers, utilities, consultants, insurers, financiers, researchers and others involved in the wind industry. Blow your mouse over to http://www.awea.org/ [no hyphens] and sniff around for the information you need. For example, you can identify the 20 states that show the greatest potential for viable wind power projects. That doesn’t imply, however, a plant will find it’s a slam dunk to convert a breeze into energetic electrons just because it’s located in state number one. Much of this site is dedicated to maxi-scale wind farms so, perhaps it would be wise to focus on the references to “small” and “industrial.”

Good overview

Energy Saving Now is a site you’ll find at http://energy.saving.nu/. The home page takes a broad view of energy issues by offering coverage of both traditional and alternative energy sources. The relevant material is accessed by scrolling down and clicking on “Wind Energy.” This opens the wind-centric page that has links to several articles. Here is where you’ll find descriptions of the major types of wind turbines. Overall, the site seems to be a bit more focused on small wind energy systems that are suitable for residences and businesses. The work is a production of Hakan Falk, Teddy Rosenthal and the late Engelbrekt Isfelt, who are involved in energy savings in building construction. The site is presented in English but, based on the wording and sentence structure, the content appears to be a literal translation from the author’s native language. The site presents serious information in a charming style. The only drawback is the lack of graphics to illustrate the concepts the site is trying to present.

Technical data

A good repository of information that delves more deeply into the technical aspects of wind energy is brought to you by the good folks at Bergey WindPower Co., Norman, Okla. Although this company is in the business of selling wind turbines, it posts a lot of free information to educate prospective buyers. Waft your way over to http://www.bergey.com/ and check out the links on the left side of the screen. “Example Projects” accesses a few mini-case studies about wind power installations at military and government sites. The “Wind School” link takes you to a series of articles that center around smaller, residential-sized wind systems. “Technical Materials” is where you can get interactive downloadable performance and finance spreadsheets applicable to Bergey’s line of wind turbines as well as installation manuals for the company’s towers. The site also has “wind maps” for each state, which are overlain with a pattern of numbers. These represent the average wind intensity at a particular location during the course of a year. A location with a Class 4 wind has stronger average winds and is likely to have a greater power-generating potential than a location having only a Class 1 wind. The balance of the site seems a bit too commercial for the purposes of this column.

Over there

Since its inception in 1978, the British Wind Energy Association has grown to become the largest renewable energy trade association in the UK. Commensurate with its stature is the quality of the material on the organization’s Web site. Much of it, as you’d expect, refers to conditions and laws on that island. But, wind is wind, and the technical material remains relevant, regardless of location. Float your way to http://www.bwea.com/energy/index.html. Start with the drop-down menu that appears when your mouse hovers at the top of the screen over the phrase “Wind Energy.” The FAQ provides good answers to a variety of the big-picture questions for those first investigating the suitability of wind energy for a plant. While you’re on the FAQ page, click on “Reference” at the right of the screen to access still more information. The “Did you know...?” link at the center of the page serves up 10 interesting pieces of wind power trivia. By the way, what the Brits call a “unit of electricity” is what we call a kilowatt-hour.

From small to big

Scalability is a handy attribute many technologies exhibit. If something works well in a diminutive size, the probability that it also will work when rendered physically larger is good. Because wind power seems to be such a technology, what you can learn at the residential level might well be applicable to the larger turbine you’ll need at the plant level. So, I direct your attention to http://www.homepower.com/magazine/downloads_wind_power.cfm, where you’ll see seven articles from back issues from Ashland, Ore.-based Home Power Magazine. Most notable of the offerings are a three-part article on tower economics, a two-part article on site analysis and a pair of product comparison entries. These are, obviously, discussed in terms of wind power for homes, but the same physical principles apply to the factory setting, only writ a bit larger. When you’ve explored these resources, click on “Files and Downloads” at the left of the screen and open “loadcalc.pdf,” an article that gives you an algorithm for tabulating energy loads. The final tally gives you a baseline against which you can quantify your conservation gains. Remember, it’s less expensive to conserve than it is to start adding more capacity or alternative energy sources.

A guy with a gauge

The performance characteristics of wind turbines, like every product the market offers, are published for sales and engineering purposes. For the most part, you can rely on the numbers to represent reality. Perhaps auto gas mileage is an exception, and we’ve become rather skeptical about those claims. Well, Michael Klemen is a skeptic when it comes to wind turbines. A programmer analyst at North Dakota State University, Fargo, N.D., Klemen is skilled in automated data acquisition. So he measures relevant wind machine variables on real-life installations and reports his findings online. He designed his Web site to “tell you what works, what doesn't, what went wrong and how badly things can go wrong.” The site is found at http://www.ndsu.nodak.edu/ndsu/klemen/. There’s so much on this portal that I hesitate to direct you to any specific page. For a sample, check Klemen’s installation information. Start with a click on “AWEA-Wind-Home FAQ” followed by another on “FAQ table of contents” and a third on “Basic Installation Information.” This is a site where you can read with gusto, but don’t lose track of time.

Get schooled

Most plant professionals already understand the hardware and electrical systems that wind turbines exploit. After all, what’s so complicated about some big piece of rotating equipment? What’s so mysterious about the electricity it makes? Aerodynamic design, on the other hand, isn’t normally part of the plant engineer’s tool set. The complexity lies in getting those big fan blades to extract the maximum amount of energy from the wind. That’s a matter of blade contour, where you site your turbine and several other variables, all of which have been explained in simple English, thanks to the Danish Wind Industry Association in Copenhagen. Founded in 1981, DWIA is a non-profit association that promotes wind energy on a grand scale in that country. It claims to represent 99.9% of Danish wind turbine manufacturing (measured in MW) and have more than 122 member companies. As evidence of its credibility, it offers an online “Guided Tour on Wind Energy,” which has the tagline “If you want to know everything about wind power -- short of becoming a wind engineer.” And they’re not kidding. The guided tour divides wind power into 10 main headings below which are no less than 114 lessons to be explored. If you have any interest in commercial, grid-connected turbines rated at 100 kw and larger, you simply must visit this heavy-duty site, which you’ll find at http://www.windpower.org/composite-85.htm.

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