Is Wind the Right Choice For You?
When considering off-grid renewable sources of energy to off grid power systems for your home, there are many options available. Solar power is the most obvious choice due to low cost and readily available products. But what happens when that first storm comes and the wind is blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Many homeowners are looking at supplementing their solar systems with a secondary input source. With the availability and decreasing cost of small, off-grid wind turbines that operate in even modest wind conditions, many people are choosing a hybrid approach.
Hybrid systems that incorporate both a solar panel system and wind turbine form a perfect complementary relationship with each compensating for the weaknesses of the other system. Where solar is best during the daytime, wind power works throughout the night. Where solar is better through the summer months, wind power can be better in winter months.
Solar power, though relatively inexpensive, is not always as reliable or efficient as possible in times of low sun. To generate power, solar panels must collect sunshine at sufficient intensity and at the right angle. This does not occur at night, or when it is cloudy and overcast. If snow covers the panels, power is not generated until the snow melts or the solar panels are cleaned off. This can cause charging issues in battery based systems that rely only on solar power where storms occur often or are in parts of the world where winters are extremely short. Adding wind power to a solar powered system also can lengthen battery life by reducing the depth and frequency of discharge. Since these off-grid systems are powered by wind when solar power is unavailable, it avoids drawing down the system’s batteries and increases battery life.
It is easy to see that wind power can complement solar in many instances because it often produces the most power precisely when solar power is reduced or unavailable, such as at night, in inclement weather, and during winter. Wind often blows during long winter nights and is, on average, actually stronger in inclement weather. During winter, average wind speed is highest, as is air density, both factors that contribute to wind generating more power when solar power tends to be least available. To enhance power reliability and build in redundancy, many off the grid homes are now being retrofitted with small, off-grid wind turbines. We recommend Primus.
Available in several models for areas with different wind speeds and climates, Primus’ turbines are designed to generate power at wind speeds as low as 6 mph, and can generate as much as 40 to 80 kWh a month per turbine depending on conditions. Each turbine measures about four (4’) feet in diameter, weighs about 13 pounds, and costs only around one thousand dollars per unit. A single wind turbine is able to provide an additional renewable energy source for charging batteries. If more power is required, several turbines can be combined together. Far from a new concept, small off-grid turbines from Primus have already been installed worldwide with over 150,000 units currently operating in the field.
The Primus AIR units are a suitable complement for nearly any off grid solar power systems where solar is being used. It is recommended that wind represent between 10% – 50% of the power generation capacity, depending on three variables:
Solar Resource (see solar resource map): In cloud-free locations at less than 35 degrees latitude, such as Arizona, wind will comprise a smaller percentage of total power generation (typically between 10% – 20%) since wintertime solar availability is high. Other locations such as the Great Lake region or Canada with shorter and/or cloudier wintertime months, off-grid systems should have much larger wind capacity (typically between 20% – 50%).
Load Specifics: Energy loads that are necessary in the wintertime and nighttime should have a much higher wind component. A prime example is hybrid lighting, where the load is increased in the wintertime (due to longer nights) and where energy is only needed during nighttime when wind power generation can occur and solar power generation cannot.
- Variety of Loads (appliances or energy consumption) lighting, refrigeration, small appliances
- Peak Consumption: when, what and how often
- Average Consumption: ongoing loads which are typically in use or on standby
- Minimum consumption: loads being run all the time and consistently
- AC or DC needs (i.e. may require additional auxiliary components)
- Required availability – system as back up or supplementary
The expected output from Wind and PV depends very heavily on location, time of year and weather etc. designing the optimal solution requires other details to be assessed:
- Location of install and descriptions of surrounding area and structures
- Local wind and weather conditions / similarly local sun conditions
- Other weather conditions to review:
- Average rainfall
- Cloud cover
Primus is in the process of launching a new power sizing tool on our website. Compiled by AWS True Wind, we can now provide wind data and expected turbine output for each month of the year, and at specific tower heights, for any location worldwide. The Wind Resource Tool is 200 M resolution data at 10-15 M in tower height. All is needed is an address or a GPS/Data/Google Coordinates sent to Primus and they will produce a simple report on the wind resource and energy production of the AIR units.