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The US Government has created the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This tax credit allows for a personal tax credit
for Solar Water Heating, Solar Photovoltaics, Wind, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, and other Solar electric technology.

 

Wind Energy Systems - An Intro to Wind Power

Standard Primer

Getting started

As with solar systems, before a wind energy system can be installed there are a couple of preliminary requirements that should be considered. Wind energy systems are less common than solar systems because potential buyers should have at least an acre of land on which to put their wind turbine. In Indiana, most places require enough space that if a turbine falls down, it won't hit someone else's property. The second requirement is communication with the utility company. Although not every wind energy system hooks up to the electrical grid, many of them do. Since power companies have a variety of methods for handling these additions to their system, it's important to have clear communication with your utility company before you install your wind energy system.


Grid-Tied Wind System

Putting it together

The electrical components of wind and solar systems are similar, but their energy-generating components are markedly different. In wind power devices, the power generation source is the turbine. This turbine is secured into the ground by a concrete foundation.

Like solar systems, wind energy systems generate DC power and require an inverter to change it into AC power. Intermediate devices regulate the energy flow, making it stable enough for common use.

System variations

As with solar systems, wind energy systems can be grid-tied, battery-based or grid interactive. Please see the solar primer for details on these systems.

Technical Primer

A wind turbine is an enormous fan working in reverse. An ordinary fan uses electricity to power a motor, which turns the blades and makes a breeze blow. In a wind turbine, on the other hand, air rushing past the propellers makes them rotate, which causes a generator to operate and electricity to be produced.

Wind energy systems achieve varying degrees of efficiency, depending on where they're installed. Obviously, someone who lives on a plain is going to produce more electricity from a wind turbine than someone living on the leeward side of a mountain. However, wind energy systems can be a viable alternative energy source, especially since they offer the same benefits as a solar array at a smaller cost..

windmill process

Rotation

There isn't just one wind turbine design that sets the industry standard. There are several turbine designs that take distinctive approaches to capturing the wind's power, from the recognizable thin blade trio to the more exotic-looking eggbeater. Despite variations in construction, however, the main purpose of the propellers' design is to maximize the amount of captured wind power while reducing the likelihood of damage from extreme winds.

Gears

Like the cogs inside a watch, a system of gears inside the turbine transfers the rotation of the propellers to a wire inside a generator. When this conductive wire begins to rotate, the generator uses electromagnetic principles to create an electric current. (See illustration)

mechanical to electrical

Electromagnetism

Just as the Earth has magnetic poles, so too do electrons. Recall that opposite fields attract each other and like fields repel each other. When opposite fields come into close contact, they produce a magnetic force that moves from the southern pole to the northern pole. If we could see the magnetic force of an electron, it would look like a series of loops moving outward from the south and then back inward to converge at the northern pole.

dipole

Flow

This magnetism can be used to get electrons to move along the rotating wire. The wire is placed in between the poles of a larger magnet, which means it's right in the middle of the big magnet's south-to-north force. (See illustration) The big magnet's poles pull and push on the electron's poles. The electron struggles to find equilibrium with the big magnet, but since the wire is causing the electron's position to constantly change it can't achieve equilibrium, and the magnetic forces start to push it out of its place. When enough electrons start moving, they jostle with one another for space and push down the wire, creating an electrical current. This current can then be used to power a load.

Current Conversion

Homes and businesses typically operate on alternating current, in which electrons move back and forth on the wire, but a wind turbine on its own will produce either direct current or wild alternating current. Wild AC is so-called because its strength is unpredictable; it depends on how fast the wind is making the wire spin.

To make the electricity produced by a wind turbine usable in the home and to make it eligible to be dumped into the utility grid, people who use wind power need to buy an inverter so that they can convert their electricity into generic AC.

Cost Effectiveness of Wind Power

As mentioned in the introduction, wind turbines offer the same financial benefits as solar arrays at a smaller cost. Solar panels work at about 30 cents per kilowatt hour; wind systems can cost about 17 cents per kilowatt hour on a small scale. Wind-produced electricity becomes most attractive on a large scale, with wind farms able to produce electricity at a rate of about four to six cents per kilowatt hour.

Viability

Wind turbines may not be a practical energy alternative in an urban setting. Neighborhood associations might protest if giant turbines start going up in people's backyards. However, if the space is available and there's nothing around to block the wind, very few obstacles exist to stop interested people from installing a wind turbine.

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