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Inexpensive Low Speed Wind Power


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Guest PacWind

I have to admit it, I'm a sucker for horizontal-axis, propeller-type wind turbines, large or small. They seem pretty, somehow, like birds perhaps, or like graceful old prop-driven airplanes. Nice works of industrial art. Yet while horizontal axis turbines are the most popular for large scale applications - for now - are they the best idea for small scale turbines like those used for remote or home power applications? Staring at picture of a new small Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT) offered by PacWind - the company's Delta I - got me thinking: Is this a better idea than small propeller-type wind turbines? First let's take a look at the major problem with most small wind turbines: Cost. True, compared with solar power, small wind is less expensive all around. But in terms of initial cost outlay compared with other forms of off-grid, standalone distributed power generation, such as conventional combustion engined generators, small wind can't compete. A guess is that the price point for small wind energy - the point at which large numbers flock to the technology - is the $3000 - 5000 range, about the same as a high-quality conventional generator. PacWind's Delta I currently falls in the middle of that range. For a similar output - a maximum of a couple of kilowatts in windy conditions - propeller type turbines don't come anywhere near that.

 

Besides, from a consumer's point of view small wind turbines don't look as though they should cost very much. They're just simple machines, aren't they? That's one problem with the most sophisticated propeller type small wind turbines; they're not that simple. Sure, small turbines are made by small companies, aren't mass-produced by the thousands to keep costs down like other power generating products . But also, state-of-the-art horizontal axis propeller turbines have to be fairly high tech. Molded carbon fiber blades, slick electronics for blade speed control and startup, and small, light and efficient electric generators wrapped in an aerodynamic, weatherproof housing are the norm. (The generator, or dynamo, has to be light and small since the turbine has to swivel and point into in the wind. A heavy generator would hamper that.) All of these things add to the cost well before installation. This is where PacWind and the new Delta I (and upcoming Delta II) come into play. From day one, while still on the drawing board, the company considered its manufacturing cost and cost to end users. The Delta's rotor cage with 3 blades rotate around the electric generator which remains stationary. The generator doesn't have to be small or light. It just sits on top of a pole, the blades spinning around it catching wind from any direction. The generator can be a little lower-tech. meaning lower cost. Further the blades, or foils - a unique PacWind design which allows for self starting in low wind speeds - though made of composites can be pultruded. Pultrusion is a manufacturing process where complex shapes made of plastic and fiber composites are pulled through a die on a continuous basis then cut to length. It's very economical. Nothing else about Delta I, or its larger, more powerful Delta II, appear to be expensive to manufacture, which the company confirms. The company says it performs well, and perhaps better than the graphs show on the company website. Power begins to build at wind speeds as low as 9 -11 miles per hour (4-5 meters per second). Further, unlike most propeller small wind turbines, the Delta I can operate in high winds and, according to the company, withstand 100 mile per hour breezes. Birds ignore the Delta. Spinning, it appears to be a solid object which birds won't fly in to, according to PacWind. Delta's can be stacked, certainly deployed in arrays or mounted on roof tops. The company also makes a smaller Savonius-type wind turbine. The more I look at the Delta, it's kind of pretty too. Visit PacWind at http://www.pacwind.net/

 

For more information, please contact:

PacWind, Incorporated

310-375-9952

info@pacwind.net

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