As the reserves of nonrenewable fossil fuels like natural gas and petroleum is fast depleting, focus has been shifted to the alternative sources of energy like wind, solar and tidal energy. In the United States , fossil fuels meet 81.6% of the total energy supply, and only a 7.3 % of energy needs are catered by the alternative sources of energy. However, these energy sources are nonpolluting and non-diminishing, which makes it a dependable source of energy in the years to come. It is estimated that the fossil fuels will be largely used up within the twenty-first century, which has brought back the focus on alternative sources of energy for a sustainable global economy.
By endorsing the Kyoto protocol, which spells out an action plan to reduce fossil fuels in a phased manner, many countries in the European Union have reiterated their commitment to shift away from nuclear and fossil fuels- both detrimental to the environment. As a first step, these countries have set an initial goal of generating 12% of its total energy and 22% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.
Solar energy is probably the most convenient energy source, which can be utilized as heat or can be converted to electricity using photovoltaic cells. It is a cost effective and non polluting energy source that can be used for heating and lighting homes, offices and streets. Greenhouses and solariums are common examples of the direct use of solar energy,
Tidal energy is another promising source of renewable energy. Water when passed through turbines electricity can be created and it is a clean and renewable source of energy.
Wind power is one so the most ancient forms of energy harvested by man and a windmill can convert it into mechanical energy which can be converted into electricity using generators. The power generation cost in wind energy is slightly higher than hydropower and lower than nuclear power. Alternative energy sources will be the corner stones of the future economy and these cheap and eco friendly forms of energy need to be harvested fully.
When one thinks of a home wind turbine, what most probably comes to mind is a gigantic tower with jumbo-jet sized spinning blades. But, with everyone becoming more aware of conserving energy, the technology has advanced so much that it is now possible to have your own small-scale wind turbine at home. Even better is the opportunity for us to make our own, without having to rely on the professionals.
So, how does a home wind turbine make power?
A home wind turbine makes power by spinning a generator. The generator is attached to the rotor, made up of three aerodynamic blades, that is then attached to a tower. To keep the turbine facing the wind, the rotor has a tail, that acts as a weather vain.
The generator is basically an electric motor. As the coils in the motor spin past the magnets, an electric current is produced. The power produced is stored in batteries, which are connected to an inverter to change the direct current to alternating current, which can then be used to power your home. The advancement of motor efficiency, is the reason wind turbines have become so popular for home use.
Depending on your area’s wind conditions, the tower can vary in length. If you live near the sea where it is windy, the tower can be shorter, but in low-wind areas the tower needs to be taller to catch as much wind possible.
Over time the blades have improved drastically as researchers developed lighter, stronger, more efficient blades, with the capability of turning even in the lightest breeze. Back in the day, wind turbines had five blades, and looked similar to windmill water pumps, but recently they have moved to three blades, taking the form of over-sized airplane rotors. Like the tower, the blades vary in size, according to your wind conditions and energy requirements.
While so far we have been explaining the typical horizontal axis wind turbine, there is another design that is starting to gain popularity for small-scale projects. It is the vertical axis wind turbine or VAWT. Very different to the standard horizontal axis turbine, the VAWT spins on a vertical axis, and almost looks like a waterwheel put on its side. Since the VAWT tends to operate low to ground, it needs far more wind to make it turn efficiently, so it is not the ideal option for homeowners or small businesses. The VAWT has also been accused by ecologists of interrupting and harming various migratory birds, making it less attractive for green enthusiasts.
Before going out and installing a wind turbine, it is best to ask yourself the following questions:
– How big is the property?
Wind turbines generally operate better in large areas that cover an acre. This is because wind flow is not deflected by any nearby buildings.
– What is the average wind speed?
The recommended wind speed should be at least eleven miles per hour, but if that isn’t the case then you may have to use a taller tower and larger blades to catch higher altitude winds.
– What else can I use the wind turbine for?
If you could use the turbine for other purposes, such as pumping in water from outside, then it may be useful than you think. This is the reason you see so many windmills scattered over farms – they help pump water from reservoirs to the farmhouse.
– Does my house need a constant power supply?
This is why so many people want to get a small wind turbine in the first place – to keep the house powered during blackouts, and prevent economic losses. Although the wind turbine may not power the house all the time, it’s stored power can be used in emergencies, when the utilities are just not enough.
Answering these questions will give you a good idea of how much power you need, how big the tower a blades need to be, and how much it would be worth investing to start making your own power at home.
The great thing about technology is that it is always improving. So much so that motors have become smaller, efficient and cheap enough for us to attach a few small turbines right on the roof, and produce the same power as a larger turbine on a tall tower.
Although professional home wind turbines can run into several thousands of dollars, it is possible to make your own for a tenth of the price, with components found at home and your local hardware store. Furthermore, the U.S. offers both state and federal tax credits that you can use to offset the installation cost. So not only will you reduce your electricity bill, but also your tax at the same time.