Micropower: Personal rooftop turbines

September 20, 2011

A big issue with wind power is the noise associated with the turbines.   The noise from wind farms may drive property values down, and has been associated with real health problems (primarily stress-disorder related issues).  Consequently, arge, on-shore wind farms are meeting organized political resistance.     Communities all across North America have banded together to ban wind farms, which is why there is such a drive for offshore wind (which is the second most expensive form of electricity in the US and is non-competitive economically without government subsidies).  So, offshore wind is too expensive and turbines are too large and noisy to attract personal homeowner use as distributed micropower.

A new development from Honeywell, however, might begin to change that.  Honeywell’s new design eliminates the heavy central generator and can generate electricity from winds as low as 2 miles per hour.  A single six foot wheel is reportedly “whisper quiet” and can generate up to 1500 kilowatt-hours per year (approximately 15% of a typical home’s electricity use).   The cost of the turbine – $10,000 per unit installed – is still probably too high for widespread adoption and use by homeowners without government incentives and tax credits.  However, it might be attractive to commercial property owners who could install multiple units atop strip malls, office complexes, etc., if they were allowed to sell the electricity back into the grid (rather than just running their tennants’ meters backwards).  A series of quiet, urban windfarms atop otherwise wasted rooftop space would also aid in lowering transmission costs.



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