As with any new technology, renewable energy is fraught with pitfalls, broken promises and hype. That’s why standards and certifications are be so important going forward. I found a good discussion on the topic at the Green Energy Café blog. Blogger Richard Carter makes the case for solar and wind energy installers meeting strict certification criteria much like engineers and tradesman.
Carter is spot on. A recent article in my local newspaper discussed several disappointing residential wind projects. Wind installers wildly exaggerate output. One installation I was watching closely promised 11,000 kilowatt hours annually and in eight months of operation, had only yielded 2,709. More disturbing is that disappointing output seems like the rule, not the exception. Wind turbines producing 20-30% of what was promised is a common refrain. The woman in the example above said installers over-estimate wind speeds and manufacturers inflate turbine output by stating the maximum which is rarely reached of ever.
A fundamental problem is output advertised at 400 watts, for instance, is only produced in a 28 MPH which is unrealistic. New units are coming on the market that rate their output a lower wind speeds. PowerMax, for example, promises 500 watts in its 500-watt rated unit in a 17.9 MPH wind. That’s still a pretty stiff breeze, but short of wind speeds typically produced in a storm. The next critical issue siting the turbine to capture consistent and smooth wind. That’s where highly-trained and certified installers come in.
In a column a few months ago, I promised to install a wind turbine, but have hesitated in light of these experiences. I could do it on the cheap and buy a 400 watt $500 wind turbine from Amazon, but the word is that unit can barely power a light bulb. Check out the comments of those who bought it.
And who wants to shell out more money for an even bigger disappointment?
When I wrote that column, I got several e-mails from folks disappointed in their turbine’s output. Evidence is mounting that wind is a bit of hot air. It’s critical vendors start telling the truth about output and installers become better trained and professional. It’s the Wild West right now and that needs to change in a hurry.