Wind Energy Basics: A Guide to Small and Micro Wind Systems|
by Paul Gipe (Author)
The wind power industry has been transformed in the 1990s by dramatic
breakthroughs in efficiency, economy, and adaptability. Wind Energy Basics is
the most up-to-date source available of information about small wind systems.
The book includes the unique "standard small wind turbine rating" developed by
the author, which is designed to help readers wade through conflicting
performance claims by manufacturers in the U.S. and overseas. Also included is
detailed information on planning, siting, and installing a wind system, and on
integrating wind power with solar for more cost-effective and reliable
In addition, Gipe provides a discussion of "net metering" and intertie
possibilities, explaining how homeowners in many states can now sell their
excess electricity back to the utility company.
Wind Energy Basics is an excellent introduction to wind power for educational
programs concerned with state-of-the-art renewable energy options, and will be
indispensable for those considering today's generation of quiet, efficient, and
reliable "micro" wind turbines.
Wind Energy Basics describes a new class of small wind turbines, dubbed micro
turbines, which are so small that they can be purchased for less than $1000 and
carried in your hands.
The debut of micro wind turbines brings the technology within reach of almost
everyone. These inexpensive machines, when coupled with readily available
photovoltaic panels (solar cells), have revolutionized living in remote homes
off-the-utility grid. And the increasing popularity of micro wind turbines has
opened up new applications previously considered off-limits to wind energy, such
as charging electric fences and powering remote telephone call boxes, once the
sole domain of solar cells.
Micro wind turbines have been around for decades for use on sailboats, but they
have gained increasing prominence in the 1990s as their broader potential for
off-the-grid applications on land has become more widely known. While micro wind
turbines have yet to reach the status of widely available consumer commodities
such as personal computers, the day may not be far off. The use of wind power is
"exploding," say Karen and Richard Perez in their foreword. "There are currently
over 150,000 small-scale RE (renewable energy) systems in America and they are
growing by 30% yearly. The small-scale use of wind power is growing at twice
that amount--over 60% per year," according to the Perezes, the editors of Home
Southwest Windpower awakened latent consumer interest in micro wind turbines
with the introduction of its sleek Air 303. Since launching the 300-watt turbine
in 1995, Southwest Windpower has shipped 18,000 of the popular and inexpensive
"What Americans, and folks all over the world, are finding out," the Perezes
say, "is that wind power is an excellent and cost-effective alternative" to
extending electric utility lines, and fossil-fueled backup generators.
Wind Energy Basics explains how it is possible—in some states—for homeowners to
run their kilowatt-hour meter backwards with a small wind turbine.
This book confronts the common but controversial practice of "power rating" that
may mislead consumers about the potential of some small wind turbines. Known for
his frank style, Gipe quickly cuts through technological jargon and the hype
surrounding power ratings.
"Nothing tells you more about a wind turbine's potential than rotor
diameter—nothing. The wind turbine with the bigger rotor will almost invariably
generate more electricity than a turbine with a smaller rotor, regardless of
their generator ratings," he says.
Gipe also comes down hard on roof-top mounting. "Don't bother," he warns. "It's
not worth the trouble." He also minces few words on mounting wind turbines in
trees. "Sometimes wind energy isn't the right choice," Gipe says. "If you live
in a forest of tall trees and you can't afford a tower tall enough to clear the
trees, then wind energy isn't for you."
Worldwide, wind energy is booming. Not since the heyday of the American farm
windmill has wind energy grown at such a dramatic pace. By the new millennium,
more than 40,000 medium-size wind turbines will be in operation worldwide,
mostly in California, Europe, and India. These commercial wind turbines,
including those found in California's giant wind power plants, will produce 20
terawatt-hours (20,000 million kilowatt-hours) of wind-generated electricity
annually—enough to meet the needs of more than three million energy-hungry
Californians, or twice that number of more energy-conscious Europeans.
The commercial success of medium-size wind turbines, or wind farm machines, is
only part of the story. Small wind turbines have found their role expanding as
well. Whether it's on the contemporary homestead of Ed Wulf in California's
Tehachapi Mountains, in the Chilean village of Puaucho overlooking the Pacific
Ocean, or on the Scoraig peninsula of Scotland's wind-swept west coast, small
wind turbines are making an important difference. While their contributions may
be small in absolute terms, small wind turbines make a big difference in the
daily lives of people in remote areas around the globe. Small wind turbines may
produce only a few tens of kilowatt-hours per month, but this electricity goes
much further and provides as much, if not more, value to those who depend upon
it as does the generation of their bigger brethren.
Today there are more than 50 manufacturers of small wind turbines worldwide, and
they produce more than 100 different models. Altogether manufacturers in western
countries have built about 60,000 small wind turbines during the last two
decades. And tens of thousands more have been manufactured in China for use by
nomads on the Mongolian steppes.
Wind Energy Basics is richly illustrated with photographs of small wind
turbines, from those on the Patagonian steppes at the tip of South America to
those on the wind-swept shores of Denmark.
The book contains information on most major small wind turbines on the
international market. It also provides photographs of common wind turbine
applications, including their use for wind power plants, vacation homes, third
world villages, farms, water pumping, and so on.
Engineers will like the "exploded views" of popular micro and mini wind turbines
such as the Ampair 100, Southwest Windpower's Air 303, and Bergey Windpower's
BWC 850 and BWC 1500.
The book also introduces the "griphoist" to American readers. This amazing tool,
coupled with new lightweight wind turbine towers that have recently become
available, has the potential to transform the installation of micro turbines.
With the "griphoist", two people can safely raise a micro wind turbine on a
specially designed tower without resorting to cumbersome electric winches.
The appendix to Wind Energy Basics includes detailed product specifications for
most popular micro and mini wind turbines, as well as sources for wind pumps
(farm windmills), used wind turbines, anemometers, inverters, trade
associations, and mail-order catalogs that sell wind turbines.
About the Author
In addition to Chelsea Green's Wind Power for Home, Farm & Business , Paul Gipe
is the author of the landmark Wind Energy Comes of Age, which was selected by
the American Library Association as one of the outstanding academic books of
1995. In 1998, the World Renewable Energy Conference hailed him as a "pioneer in
renewable energy," awarding Gipe one of the organization's highest honors for
his two decades of writing and lecturing about wind energy. Gipe lives in
Paperback: 122 pages
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Company (April 1999)