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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

Wondering about a great new energy-saving device
you found on the Internet? Then CLICK HERE!

Sorry. Jeff no longer answers questions online.
This will remain as a searchable
resource for all BHM website visitors.



Archive for the ‘Wind’ Category

 

Wind Power Question

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Jeff,

I saw a catalog at NorthernTool.com, and there was a ad for a wind generator 120 volts , not DC and the ad stated “Run your meter backward”. The item number in this catalog is Model #44470. It states it also comes with an inverter built in.

Why would you need a inverter for 120 volts?

Second will this piece of equipment really work as it is in this ad?

If it does work as it is in the ad what if anything else will you need to set it up and does it come under the Federal law that the power company is required to let you use it in the system as long as they are advised of the equipment being on line?

Thanks

Bill Wilson

Bill,

I saw an ad for a car that can go 120 miles per hour, but that does not mean I can drive it down the Interstate at that speed if I buy it. In other words, the ad you reference may say you can turn your meter backwards, but you cannot do it legally unless you install all of the required safety dis-connects as required by your local utility, you complete their application form, and then they replace your existing electric meter with a model that records each in and out electric flow separately. Some states have other requirements like providing the utility with a copy of your homeowners liability insurance policy and having a lockable handle exterior disconnect switch for their use.

Although this company is known for their quality wind products, I don’t like having the inverter mounted 75 feet up a pole and subject to all the weather extremes. The inverter is the weak link in most of these systems and I want a system where this is at ground level and have as few electronic components as possible up on a tall tower and in the weather.

Most small wind systems generate DC power for battery charging. What they have done is mounted a DC to AC inverter inside the wind turbine to convert the DC electricity from the turbine into 120/240 VAC which can feed back into the utility grid. However, you cannot legally just plug this into the wall outlet and “turn your meter backwards”.

On another note, for those readers wanting to do something like this, please understand that the power output from any wind turbine is “wild”, in that it jumps constantly all over the place as the wind changes direction and flow rate. You cannot use a standard DC to AC inverter with a wind turbine since the voltage and current goes to such extremes every few seconds. Most inverter manufacturers make a “modified” version of their solar inverters to work with wind turbines, and most are designed for ground mounting in a protected area.

Also note that there are very few areas of the US with enough wind to make these worth the cost and the easiest way to tell is if there are already other wind turbines nearby. Those areas of the US with lots of wind year-round are usually already covered with wind turbines. Although you might be the first in your area, you may want to check a wind resource map for your state first before paying out $6000 plus.

Good Luck,

Jeff Yago

 

DIY baby-steps Hybrid system design

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Jeff,

First of all, thank you for offering a place where the rest of us can ask power questions! We really appreciate what you are doing.

We are looking to both test our location for wind potential and in the meantime fractionally lower our monthly bills – especially our overall peak electricity usage – by way of self generated power and better home efficiency.

After doing some research and checking prices we have come up with what we hope to be good theoretical plan to produce a little energy and perform our test. Unfortunately, we cannot get straight answers on how the proposed system might perform, if at all. We have found similar all solar solutions, but we really like the idea of harnessing the wind – we have a ton of wind, but only so many hours of light.

The proposed Hybrid test components are as follows:

Wind – 200W VAWT (specs below)
Solar – 50W solar panel
NC25A/12volt charge controller
Smart Sine Wave Inverter-250W (sadly, not UL listed but the next version in April 09 will be)
5 x 100 watt bulbs (temporary diverter load)

All plugged into an existing dedicated 20amp GFCI outlet, left over from landscaping.

I wanted to ask specifically is this even worthwhile to attempt to do this project. Will this configuration cause components to die a premature death? Will these components work together? And possibly what other pitfalls, if any?

The only issue I could really easily identify is the inverter start-up voltage was pretty high, which doesn’t take full advantage of any low speed wind energy. Because of this I opted to additionally use a solar panel to jump start the voltage, which may help during daylight hours anyway. But again, this is why we are writing you as it is all a little out of our league.

We know this isn’t much power to produce or save, but I think it will make us more aware of what we are using and it will likely knock us down a tier or two on our power bill while additionally helping up plan for our next steps. That and we feel buying a “wind survey” or wind survey equipment isn’t likely going to supply us with all the practical knowledge we are sure to gain playing around with our own working model!

Thank you,

Charlie and Sara

Charlie and Sara,

If you guys want to “play around” with this proposed system as a learning experience then go for it but remember, a 20 amp circuit could easily kill you under the right grounding conditions. However, I can offer you some warnings if you ignore that advice.

If you check a recent email question from another person wanting to do this same thing, I pointed out that most wind turbines cannot be connected directly to a standard solar inverter because the output power is “wild.” A grid-connected wind turbine requires a special, modified solar inverter designed specifically for a wind turbine, and if you go the way you are going I am willing to bet you will quickly burn up your inverter which is NOT designed for this type application.

You also cannot connect a solar module and a wind turbine together to “jump start” the system as you describe. Each will require their own charge controller type device to prevent reverse charge flow and coil damage.

If you want to know wind potential at a site, you can purchase a recording wind meter for $74.00.

I don’t see how your approach will teach you anything useful except how fast you can fry electrical equipment, as a real wind turbine installation will not have the same performance issues of your experiment.

Also, you have not describing any safety disconnects, fuses or circuit breakers, and have not discussed the fact that it’s against utility regulations to make this connection to the grid without written approval, and this requires evidence that your inverter is both UL listed, and certified for grid backfeed applications.

Again, I am not against experimenting as a learning process, but I am afraid all you will discover with this approach is how fast you can burn up several hundred dollars worth of equipment.

Be very careful,

Jeff Yago

 

DC/AC Converters

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Jeff,

Thanks for offering this service.

I am building my own wind turbine for the home. This will be a grid-tied system that will plug into an outlet to supplement the grid. Can you recommend an affordable converter? I saw the Smart Sine Wave Inverter, but that costs $300. Is there a less expensive alternative?

Thanks,

Mark

Mark,

I think its great that you want to tackle a project like building a wind turbine. If you are going to use it to charge a set of batteries for a backup power system then that would be the way to go, but you will not be able to connect it to the grid.

Just a small point, a “converter” is used to convert AC to DC, and “inverter” is used to invert DC to AC.

First, the voltage and current output from a wind turbine is all over the chart as the wind keeps changing by the minute, which requires a very special DC to AC inverter designed for this type power input, plus be certified to feed power back into the grid. The lowest cost inverter I have seen that is designed for this type application and certified for grid connection costs around $2,500.00, plus circuit breakers and wiring. Your local utility will not allow you to feed power back into the grid unless the inverter has these UL and IEEE certifications, and you will not find this level of quality in any $300 inverter..

Sounds like you are on a tight budget, so I would stick with charging batteries and powering some emergency DC lights.

I will point out that many who ask me these type questions totally ignore my advice and go on and waste a lot of their time and money to find out the hard way, so either way, good luck with your project.

Jeff Yago

 

Residential Wind Turbines & City Permits

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Jeff,

I am trying to get a permit for a residential wind turbine for Albuquerque, NM.  When I first contacted the city I was told to ‘state my case’ that the virtical turbine I was interested in would not be an eye sore or danger to the community.  Although I received some good information from the manufacuturer, this was not good enough for the city.

Do you have any additional information I can use or can you direct me to some sites that may prove helpfull?

Criss

Criss:

Since solar and wind projects are still very new to some people, and these people are on city boards and in other organizations that make regulations, you will run into this from time to time.  It sounds to me like they do allow wind turbines, just not the type you were planning to install.  It also sounds like you really want a wind turbine.

My advice is to ask them what type of wind system they would approve, then install that one.  It may not be your first choice, but it sounds like its that or nothing, unless you want to spend big bucks fighting city hall, and still may not win.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago

 

Solar and Wind Tax Credits

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Jeff,

I read your article entitled “Solar and Wind Energy Credits” in the most recent edition of Backwoods Home Magazine.  The article implied that one could get a tax credit for solar powered water wells.

I live on ten acres, and during 2008 installed a solar water pump, tank, and two photovoltaic panels.  I called the Complex Tax Lawï section of the IRS 800 number system to enquire about the tax refund for 2008, and the man told me that I could NOT get a credit unless the solar panel went to directly power my house or heat my house.

So, at least for residential purposes, I am out of luck.  The same individual told me that the latest law (2009) still only applies to solar for residences, and not water wells, and only the caps have changed.

It was unclear if there are differences for businesses, but my little pecan orchard is not an official business.

If you know absolutely something different from this and better, please let me know.

Thanks,

Richard Gollad

Richard:

The reason I wrote the article is this new legislation is complex and I anticipated there would be misunderstandings and limited solar tax advice out there.

The new October, 2008 bill has no limits on the Federal income tax deduction and covers solar equipment purchased (or first placed into operation ) after Jan.1. 2009, which appears to be after your installation was completed.  The older solar bill passed in 2005 is almost the same legislation, but has a limit of  $2000 tax credit which is what applies to your situation.

Several national solar associations have had their attorneys study this bill and have determined that a solar power system to power a well does meet the requirement for a tax credit, but not the cost of the well or the well pump.

However, these groups ( and Jeff Yago and Backwoods Home magazine) are not tax attorneys and this information is for general information only.  You are advised to get the assistance of a tax professional to resolve this question, but I would question any advice from a government website or phone tax help center as the tax code is very complex and most will have only a limited knowledge of any specific code section.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago

 

Solar / wind questions

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Just found this site tonight at work.

I’m a pretty competent diy’er (carpentry, basic electrical, plumbing, etc).

You may have answered this before in the magazine (never heard of until tonight).

I live in Eastern Wyoming, outside of town on a west facing rise, and we have lots of wind. Blows most everyday 10-20 mph with many times throughout the year windstorms of up to 90 mph gusts.

I have a 76 14×70 mobile home, I have built around and wired. My well is 500 feet down and pump is about 400 feet down. I am single and 60 yr old.

My dryer is 220 and 5 year old (rarely use it—–hang dry). Refrigerator is 5 year old 110 volt average household size. Washing machine is brand new 110 volt.

Phantom current draws from, digital clocks on coffee maker, 110 volt microwave, tv, vcr/dvd player. I have two laptop computers both on 24 / 7

Standard mobile home furnace with blower and a 110 volt augur driven pellet stove (main heat). Propane water heater

As I am working in and on house, I use skil saw, tabletop, router, small air compressor, etc (one at a time)

Have already installed low energy light bulbs, most times only one or two are on at a given time.

I am considering going to wind and or solar energy alone or as supplement., and I have a couple questions if you can help.

1. Realistically in a 10-20 mph wind, how many rpms could I expect from a wind turbine?

2. Batteries, how many and what type / size, if used to support the whole house as needed (course I could switch back to grid, if heavy usage required it)

3. If wind turbine, how big a generator would you recommend (ac or dc out put and amp / watts)

4. Same for solar panel.

5. Power inverter, should batteries be wired for 12, 24 or 48vdc

6. Utility company requires an auto cutout if backfeeding to the grid, in case grid goes down. Is there one that would allow the generator / solar to continue to feed house, but not the grid if the grid goes down, and then refeed the grid when grid comes back on line?

Thank you for any assistance you can give, and I will continue my research.

SJ Launer

SJ:

Lots of questions and as a new reader I need to remind you and other new readers that we try and stay with general type questions since not all specific details are know or given to allow a more specific reply, nor do we have the time on a free advice basis. However, this should give you a good direction to head.

If you are in an area with a good constant wind most of the year then a wind system may be your best bet, but I caution that many people think they have lots of wind when in fact its not enough to justify the cost of the equipment. A good indication is if there are others in your general area using wind systems. Its good that you have minimized your electric loads, and that should always be the first step.

We don’t size wind turbines on a RPM basis. All modern wind turbines are sized to provide a given “watts” output for a given wind speed, and very few models can produce any power under 8 to 10 MPH. At 20 MPH you mentioned is a good wind level for most wind turbines, but you will most likely still need to raise the turbine at least 50 or more feet above the ground to really make it cost effective as the wind is almost double the ground speed as you get 50 to 100 feet above the highest nearby trees or structures.

There is no “generator” as separate from the wind turbine. This comes as a package, with the number and diameter of wind turbine blades matched to the internal generator section. Many turbines also include an internal voltage regulator for direct connect to batteries, while larger models have a separate voltage controller installed near your batteries. There are many different models and types, including direct grid connect inverters specially designed to take the DC or “wild” AC voltage from a wind turbine and match it to the 240 volt AC grid connection to allow selling all generated wind power back to the utility.

If you want the system to provide power without the utility grid, your system will require batteries and a DC output wind turbine. A separate DC to AC inverter is then used to supply your critical electrical loads from the wind charged battery bank. The size of the wind turbine depends on your pocketbook and the size of the battery bank. The size of your battery bank depends on the size of your pocketbook and how many hours or days you need to power your electric loads without the utility grid. Most systems end up being sized based on how much money you are willing to spend, since you will use all the power generated.

Remember, these are 2 separate wiring systems if you want to power your home without the utility grid. The battery bank supplies the AC inverter which supplies your critical loads, not all loads. The separate wind turbine and charge controller re-charges the battery bank.

Good luck!

Jeff Yago


Thanks for the response. I am still evaluating wind turbine versus Photo voltaic.

I am 15 miles west of town. On a hilltop, there are NO trees anywhere near High prairie). We are on 5 acre lots nearest house is 100 yds east. In southwest Wyoming so we have more sun days than not, so I could go either way.

One question I forgot to ask, when you have the time.

Utility company requires all alternative energy sources tied to the grid have an automatic disconnect feature, if the grid goes down, so my power output won’t electrocute any line workers.

Who makes one of these units and is there one that will kill power going out to grid, but leave power to the house?

Thanks for your time.

SJ:

All utilities that allow grid tie sell back of power require this, but its not a “switch” as you suggest.

You need to buy a DC to AC inverter that carries these ratings on the label, UL 1741, IEEE 1547, IEEE 929.

These indicate the inverter will shut down and not sell power back on the grid if the grid goes down, and will not anti-island which means it will not be fooled by sensing other inverters also connected nearby and think the grid is still active when it is down.

You can use about any wind turbine that will charge a battery bank then use the battery charge to supply the grid through the inverter. They also make several inverters that are designed to take the ‘wild” output from a wind turbine and convert directly into grid power without a battery bank, but you need to make sure the wind turbine and inverter are matched correctly.

Hope this helps,

Jeff Yago

 

Adding wind power to solar system

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Jeff,

Do you need any special equipment if you want to add a wind turbine to an existing photovoltaic system (other than the turbine and support system for it)?

Bill Hiltscher

Bill,

Older model wind turbines required a charge controller to regulate the charging current going to the batteries and to provide a way to load up the turbine to reduce over-speed in high winds once the battery was charged and there was no load on the unit. The solar charge controller and wind charge controller can be used together and even charge at the same time as they do not allow for one charger “back-feeding” into the other one.

Some newer wind turbines include built-in electronics so you do not need a separate charge controller, and even newer models put out 120 VAC which can go straight back into the grid without charging any batteries.

Hope this helps,

Jeff Yago

 

Combining Renewable Energies

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Hello Jeff,

First, I wanted to say thank for for sharing your knowledge. This is greatly appreciated!

Right now, we have not yet decided where to settle down as much of this we believe will depend on the answers we find to this:

Is it possible, or even worthwhile, to combine hydro, solar and wind renewables into our house somehow? My thoughts are that we could use solar to recharge our batteries, the wind and water as needed for current power or recharge as needed. I realize the question is very vague, so any guidance as to where to start would be very much appreciated. If needed, we do have an excess of electronics working daily such as 2-3 computers; 2 with the 3rd on in evenings (childs); tv, common appliances etc.

Thank you again!

Bryan

Bryan:

Yes you can combine all of these charging sources if you want, as the battery does not care what is doing the charging and they can all charge at the same time. However, it is very hard to find a good wind power location unless you are right on the ocean coast or on top of a mountain. You may think you have wind where you are, but there are actually very few wind locations that have a strong wind every day of the year and still will require a 30 to 75 foot tower.

On the other hand, it’s hard to find a good hydro source as you don’t need a raging river, but you do need a fairly large drop from the point of the water entering a supply pipe down to the hydro-turbine which is located hundreds of feet down the river bank to get as much fall as possible. The systems I have completed were in locations like Idaho where there are creeks and streams everywhere that fall hundreds of feet over very short distances. I might add that these locations are usually down in the bottom between high mountains on each side and there is very little wind.

Its easier to find good solar locations between these extremes, but I don’t see how you will find a location that is ideal for wind, hydro, and solar all within a few hundred feet of each other. Its not uncommon to do solar and wind so perhaps you should limit your search to a higher elevation with a good southern exposure.

Good Luck,

Jeff Yago

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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