Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Here's More on the Small Turbines Big Boxes Will Sell

Diana Christopolus of Cool Cities Coalition in Roanoke asked around about the small wind turbines that Lowes and Home Depot have begun selling and found out some interesting stuff, mostly that they won't heat or cool your homes, but that they have some uses.

Here's Diana's report:

I asked some of our local experts to compare the two sources, and here is what I got:

From Richard Rife, who oversaw the installation of wind turbines at William Fleming High school in Roanoke:

"The turbines at Lowe's are rated at 600 watts output - think 6-100 watt light bulbs. They are very small and are probably geared for use on boathouses to keep batteries charged, a farm outbuilding, electric fences, etc. They would make only a small dent in the power bill for a residence with a net metering situation.

"They put out DC power, which is fine for batteries, but would require an inverter to convert the DC to AC to feed it back to the grid for net metering.

"The turbines Home Depot is going to start selling (Southwest Windpower Skystream 3.7) were designed for residential use to provide significant power for a residence. They are rated at 3.7 KW. In the Midwest, where you've got steady wind and they generate 18 or more hours a day, this model can probably zero out the power consumption for a small energy efficient residence with a net metering setup.

"That's who Southwest primarily markets them to, although the DOE had a program for a while where they would install them at elementary schools in the Midwest. It's a reliable turbine that has been on the market for 8-10 years. It also has a built-in inverter that converts the DC power it makes into 480V AC. This 'plug and play' capability would be a real advantage for Home Depot's do-it-yourself customer, since it eliminates having to also install an inverter.

"We installed four of them on top of the stadium light supports at William Fleming High School as a demonstration/public education project and to defray the operating costs of the stadium. We have signs in the stadium explaining how they work and how they return excess power into the APCO grid. People are fascinated by them and it builds positive PR for wind energy."

From Mark Hanson, local small wind and solar guru:

"That [the Lowe's turbine];looks like the same Sunforce company I made the mistake of buying thin film (amorphous) solar panels through Northern Tool about 10 years ago. They lasted 2 years (output dropped to 1/2). Sunforce said 'don't leave them out in the sun'. What are you supposed to do with solar panels. They said they are for week-end use on RVs, not to leave all week in the sun. The company buys some cheapie China low quality stuff, re-labels Sunforce and resells the junk. It might be good for decoration but not to generate much power. A good wind turbine company has a long track record like"

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