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Properties of Wind

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What causes the wind to blow? Well, wind is created when there is uneven heating of landmasses by the sun.
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Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
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Having used a couple of different wind turbines myself, and having installed some for others, I can attest to the wonder of seeing the amps flow quickly into a depleted battery bank on a cloudy but windy day when PV panels aren't doing much. Very gratifying!

The trouble in our windy region of southern Minnesota is that there are a bunch of well-funded investors out there just itching to put GIANT wind turbines up in large "wind farms". The taller and larger the better, since the investors make more money back if the blades see the higher wind speeds found at greater altitudes, and the multi-megawatt machines churn out more kilowatts per hour at a given speed.

Besides chopping up the many raptors that float around the massive blades, many folks just don't like the look or sound of these things. They are not human-scale in any sense of the term. They are just plain intimidating, like living next to a large, dangerous, prehistoric beast.

And then there's the infrastructure problem. Big turbines need massive upgrades to the grid to move all that power to where it's actually used. In our case that's 140 miles to our north in Minneapolis/St. Paul. And why don't they just build them up there? Several reasons: The wind isn't quite as speedy there (lowering the rate of return for the investors or requiring taller towers), the land values are higher because everybody who wants money wants to be close to Money-apolis, and, surprise, most people don't like having them nearby.

I like the little, human-scale machines under 10 kilowatts. They still prefer tall towers to get into steady, non-turbulent wind, but they are pretty quiet. And since they spin much faster to obtain their output the sound and speed tends to scare birds away. Most of the time they aren't very noticeable, and when they are you don't want to be outside anyway as it's pretty blustery. But, as a back-up to another alternative energy source like PV or part-of-the-year hydro, they can be quite cost effective, low maintenance, safe, and productive. And if your system is off-grid they can make a back-up fossil-fueled generator unnecessary.

But it all depends on an assessment of your site for wind. Rolling, wooded, or hilly terrain can be a challenge, requiring thoughtful tower placement. And the output voltage will determine how far from your house you can place the machine and how much you'll need to spend on wire. When looking at different models, pay attention to how long the company has been around, what users have to say about their machines, and don't be fooled into thinking that the turbine is the biggest cost. The tower, installation, wiring, and control/conversion devices you'll need may easily exceed the turbines cost.

In our case, for the past 10 years we've upgraded our PV system to be excessive for home battery charging. We shunt the excess into hot water heating, refrigeration, and charging an electric car, electric hybrid trikes, and electric tractor, and electric mower, etc. Our current location is too far from a good windsite and we don't have a stream anywhere nearby. Gotta use what you've got!

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