walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

Wind Energy: a Case Study in Miscommunication

Here's a treehugger.com post from last June about a Dutch wind turbine that looks kinda like a sea shell.

http://www.treehugger.com/wind-technology/silent-wind-turbines-could-generate-half-household-energy.html

The article is sort of a mess, so I'm just going to start by pointing you here as well:

http://www.z24.nl/ondernemen/deze-windmolen-is-superefficient-relatief-goedkoop-en-veilig-voor-vogels-476303

The treehugger article says: "The company states that the Liam F1 turbine could generate 1,500 kWh of energy per year at wind speeds of 5m/s, enough to cover half of an average household's energy use." They did an update, but it's unfortunate that they left "m/s" there, because an American audience has trouble with it. It is meters/second and in mph, I think it is about 11. In an earlier version of the article, it said "1.500" kWh; you can see that at z24, also. It's a different standard for expressing numbers.

The commenters on the article say things like this: "1500kw/year? about 12kw per month? Even the Japanese are not that frugal." And the commenters are correct. The Japanese are not that frugal.

http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/average-household-electricity-consumption

But the worldwide average is, the Netherlands (according to the comments thread on the above, and according to Dutch coverage of this technology) is, Italy is, etc.

Ruijtenbeek (see z24 article) says it isn't a problem for birds. If they do happen to fly into it, they'll just get a little ride: "achtbaanritje".

Archimedes (the company) developed it and tested it extensively, and then they have licensed the design to resellers in the Netherlands and elsewhere. They are working on setting up a US sales channel but don't expect it to be available in the US before 2015.

Ruijtenbeek is pretty realistic. He knows this thing works okay on the coast, but by the time you get inland, you either have to be on water (so nothing blocking the wind) or up pretty high (30 meters). He figures a lot of the sales for this will be overseas, because there are only certain places that have average winds of 11 mph year round. It's apparently a good deal cheaper than a lot of the competition.

There's no reason to believe, based on the z24 article, that Archimedes or Ruijtenbeek imagine this to be a residential installation. This seems pretty clearly to be intended for utility-scaled farm-like installations. The kWh comparison to "half a household" is just a way of characterizing how much energy this thing produces compared to a typical Dutch household. I don't think he imagined it being installed on an actual Dutch house. I think part of what he was trying to accomplish was to make a cheaper, more efficient wind turbine that wasn't so noisy people didn't want to live near it, to reduce NIMBY resistance to utility-scale installations. Next up: something small enough to put on a pole.

I don't know why the treehugger article presented this as a potential installation. I don't know why the responses from the commenters were so ridiculous. (seriously, guys, just because the US uses that much power in a household does not mean everywhere on the planet is the same). It's a bummer that something as simple as the Dutch/English language barrier (which in theory is supposed to be negligible, given the very widespread, high proficiency in English displayed by the Dutch) is mangling the transmission of fairly simple information.

[ETA: Judging by other coverage, it looks like people selling the product in Australia and maybe elsewhere are indeed marketing it to homeowners.]]

[Separately, a NJ man decided to install solar, wind and a storage system and kickstarted the ordinance to include it in the code in his area. Pretty cool! http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2014/06/hightstown_man_wins_fight_to_install_rooftop_wind_turbine_on_his_home.html]

ETA: Wikipedia on rooftop wind turbines

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconventional_wind_turbines#Rooftop_wind-turbines

Boston's Museum of Science did a 9 turbine installation to test stuff in 2009.

Here's an update from 2011:

http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/downtown/2011/02/wind_turbines_at_bostons_museu.html

Predictably, there were mechanical problems and they underproduced. Equally predictably, when some people talk about sizing a wind installation to power a house, they do not contemplate fairly obvious things like combining it with solar, storage and an energy efficiency strategy. Duh.

The museum put together a summary in 2012, including this statement:

"No issues with noise, vibration, ice throw, flicker, bats, other
environment problems; just one bird strike in 2.5-year lab history.
Our neighbors like them, too."

from: http://www.wind-works.org/cms/fileadmin/user_upload/Files/MOSWTL_2010_2011_29Feb2012.pdf

This was an experimental installation and in no sense ideal, but super cool that they did it -- and I don't think I had any awareness of it at all (you know, I think I knew someone who worked there while it was in progress, too, which just goes to show that my obliviousness to anything outside my house during those years was pretty comprehensive).
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