We were lucky to have local Orange and Lake County Fla self taught wind power expert Jim Dotson as our presenter. Jim offered a beautiful powerpoint on his personal initiative to learn about and install a wind turbine on acreage he has in central Florida. He also included information on his trips to rural Africa to offer electrification efforts to small clinics which often have no power at all.
Jim became interested in residential wind systems after seeing an exhibit at the National Botanical Gardens in Washington DC. He researched the opportunity and decided to dive in.
He laughed when discussing his first visit to the local zoning office. The office had never had a wind tower installed in their locale so they were unclear how to list the project. After much discussion the decision was to list it as a radio tower and not a wind tower.
For those with interest in installing their own turbine, placement of the tower is quite essential to optimum performance.
The tower needs to be 250ft horizontal distance from any obstacle and the motor needs to be 20ft above any obstacle. In that the turbine is in many ways like an aircraft propeller it is important to have clean air ie the less turbulent air the better. Jim installed his tower on a hill(yes we have hills in Florida) near his home which helped elevate the blades into less turbulent air.
Usually the taller the tower the better in order to get the cleaner air.
Here's some data on Jim's system:
- Was purchased from Southwest Wind Power or Skystream-click here to see their residential systems
- Has a 35ft tower with 6ft blades
- The unit spins 360° to catch the wind from any direction
- The unit needs 5 mph consistent wind to operate and stalls at 60 mph to protect the motor
- The optimum wind speed is 24mph
- The factory states no maintenance is needed for 20 years but Jim did say that one of the only drawbacks to the system is that if maintenance is required the motor must be brought to the ground
- Anchoring the tower is very important to get the best performance. Jim dug a sizeable hole and used rebar and poured concrete.
Jim says he expects a 4.5 year breakeven on the $22k cost of his system but he's only using it to contribute toward half of his Progress Utilities energy bill currently. He says the net metering checks he's gotten from Progress have been satisfactory
Jim did volunteer that he has seen no birds killed by the moving turbines yet. He said in fact that he watches a hawk on occasion that seems to like to play on the turbines when the wind is light.
Some experts say the ambient wind flows in Florida are too light to support successful residential wind power in Florida. It does seem that due to the size of the turbine and the requirement for "clean" air, wind power may be suited for a more rural location where there are less obstructions by neighbor's houses and large buildings. But it does seem also that wind can certainly contribute to reducing the need for grid generated power in Florida. We passed a marina recently and almost a 3rd of the sail boats had small wind turbines to power their batteries.
This map from Wikipedia shows where in the USA wind is most likely to return an investment quickly and consistently. In that blues and reds are the most potent wind the northern coast of California, SW Oregon, and the N Atlantic coastal states all look prime for significant wind power growth
Here's are some links on Jim's project and on general wind turbine information and current wind topics:
Video on Jim's project
Wikipedia on How Wind Turbines operate
Florida's first commercial wind farm to be built in the Everglades commercial district
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