How to Implement Small-Scale Wind Turbines in Remote Locations
Implementing small-scale wind turbines in remote locations can provide clean, renewable energy in areas that lack access to traditional grid power. With proper planning and execution, individuals and communities can harness the wind to generate electricity even in isolated settings. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to successfully implement small wind turbines in remote locations.
Determining the Feasibility of Small Wind at Your Site
The first step is to evaluate whether your location has adequate wind resources to make a small wind turbine viable. There are a few key factors to consider:
Average Wind Speeds
- Small wind turbines require average annual wind speeds of at least 9 mph (4 m/s) to operate efficiently. The higher the average wind speeds, the more energy a turbine can generate.
- Use an anemometer to take on-site wind speed measurements at potential turbine heights. Measure for at least one year to get accurate average speeds.
- Review wind maps and talk to experts to complement on-site data and identify the windiest areas on your property.
- Wind speeds increase with height, so turbines are mounted on tall towers to access stronger winds.
- Turbine heights of 80-140 ft (25-45 m) are typical for small wind systems.
- Ensure there are no obstacles (trees, buildings) to block the wind within 500 ft (150 m) upwind of potential sites.
- Consider ease of access for transporting and erecting the wind turbine components.
- Remote roads or waterways may limit the size/weight of equipment.
- Prepare to clear brush, level ground, and pour concrete foundations as needed.
Selecting the Right Wind Turbine
Choosing an appropriate turbine model is essential for performance and safety. Keep the following in mind:
- The diameter of the rotor (blades) determines how much power a turbine can generate. Most small turbines have rotor diameters between 8-27 ft (2.5-9 m).
- Match the rotor size to your location's average wind speeds and desired energy output.
- The turbine's power rating (in kW) indicates how much electricity it can produce at optimal wind speeds.
- For battery charging and auxiliary power for remote homes or cabins, select a turbine with a rated power between 1-10 kW.
- Opt for a turbine with a design life of at least 20 years for ruggedness and performance longevity.
- Smaller turbine rotors spin faster and create more sound.
- Verify that the turbine operates within your acceptable noise limits (usually <40 dBA).
- For reliability and insurance purposes, select a turbine that is certified to AWEA safety standards by a credible third-party.
- Choose a reputable manufacturer that offers technical support and service options for their turbines to resolve any issues.
Turbine Tower Considerations
The tower raises the turbine to reach better wind resources. Keep these guidelines in mind:
Towers are generally 40-140 ft (12-45 m) tall. The optimal height depends on wind conditions and obstacles at your site.
Tubular, self-supporting lattice, or guyed lattice styles work well. Match the tower design to the size of your turbine.
Use engineered foundations suited to the soil (rock, clay, sand) at your site. Most are concrete piers or anchored screw piles.
Tower components and installation can be complex. Seek expert help or choose a manufacturer that provides full tower services.
Inverters and Batteries
To convert the turbine's raw power into usable electricity, you need:
An inverter to transform the turbine's AC power into DC electricity for battery storage. It also converts DC back to AC for powering standard loads.
Batteries to store excess energy and provide power when the wind is low. Deep-cycle lead-acid batteries are a proven, cost-effective option for small wind systems.
For net metering with the grid, some inverters can sync the system to the utility network.
Select components suited to your turbine's voltage and power output. Proper sizing is critical.
Completing the Installation
Proper installation and maintenance ensures your system operates safely and effectively:
All electrical connections must be performed by licensed technicians following local codes.
Work with structural engineering experts to design and install your turbine's foundation and tower safely.
Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listing of all electrical components is recommended for safety assurance.
Routine maintenance tasks include checking fluids, testing brakes, removing debris, and verifying bolts/connections.
Detailed manufacturer manuals will provide model-specific installation and maintenance procedures. Follow all guidelines closely.
Getting the Most from Your Wind Turbine
Once successfully installed, a few tips will keep your turbine performing optimally:
Monitor energy production and retain records to track turbine performance.
In remote areas, consider SCADA systems to remotely log turbine data and diagnostics.
Adjust turbine direction to track the prevailing winds and maximize output.
During extremely high winds, shut down the turbine to avoid damage.
In winter, cold weather packages can help prevent ice buildup on blades.
With the right planning and resources, small wind turbines can be an extremely effective means of harnessing renewable energy, achieving energy independence, and powering remote homes, cabins, communities, and more.