Who sells wind turbines in Kansas?
- Southwest Wind Power maintains a searchable database of Skystream dealers (and other renewables): click on "where to buy"
- Bergey WindPower is probably the oldest small-turbine manufacturer and is based in Oklahoma
- Endurance is a family of small (5kW) to mid-sized (30kW) turbines being marketed by BTI Energy in Greensburg.
- Entegrity 50-kW turbines are sized for schools and businesses
- Northern Power markets its 100-kW Northwind100 turbine to schools, businesses and town governments.
- Kansas manufacturers include Enertech (Newton) and West Wind Energy (Otis); visit their websites for information on which turbines they may have available.
- The US DOE Wind Technologies website has a FAQ and many more resource links
- Windustry and the American Wind Energy Association are also good sources for more information.
Some simple rules:
- make sure the turbine you're considering is working on certification under the AWEA Small Wind Standard
- the larger the turbine, the lower the cost of energy from it.
What about vertical-axis wind turbines?
Vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) somewhat resemble egg-beaters (Urban Green Energy's 4-kW machine is shown to the right.) There are many different models out, all with the same idea: since the airfoils are vertical, the turbine should spin no matter which direction the wind is blowing from, and it should tolerate turbulence better than a horizontal-axis machine. Usually VAWTs are marketed for urban environments, such as on roofs--presumably lower-cost because no tower is used. Problems include vibration in the roof (can be designed to minimize), durability in highly turbulent environments, and the fact that, while on the upwind side of a roof the wind is stronger, on the downwind side the wind is nearly null, and wind doesn't blow from the same direction all the time. The short answer is, no VAWT has yet been shown equal to a HAWT in the same conditions, and no turbine should be put on a roof if you're serious about energy production. However, experimentation continues. One website to check out options is EcoBusiness Links' VAWT site.
Can you help with solar power?
- Solar insolation map and other assistance: on the Kansas Energy Office website, shows approximately how much solar energy is available annually.
- FindSolar.com has a solar system cost estimator and dealer list.
- US DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Program has lots of free information and links.
- NREL's IMBY tool lets you "draw" a solar array on a Google Earth image of your site, and tells you the price and kW production of the resulting array.
How much does home-scale renewable energy cost?
- Solar photovoltaic (electric): $6-$8 per installed watt (no batteries)
- Solar thermal (hot water):
- Wind turbine (electric): $15,000 and up, largely dependent upon choice of tower.
- A 30% Federal tax credit incentive is in place through 2016.
How long will a renewable energy system last?
- Most solar and wind installations have 5-yr manufacturer warranties.
- Most solar PV installations will last upwards of 30 years.
- Wind turbine manufacturers usually quote 20-year lifetimes.
- There are plenty of Bergeys and Jacobs wind turbines still working fine after 30 years!
What about bad weather?
- Wind turbines are designed to shut down in high winds (over 50-60 mph)
- Wind turbines are designed to survive winds upwards of 120 mph
- Solar PV arrays are designed to withstand hail up to golf-ball size
- Wind turbines usually shut down if iced, and are no more hazardous than light poles
Won't the generator back-feed onto the grid if the power goes out?
- All residential-scale renewable power generators are designed to shut down if they cannot detect a grid signal. This prevents electricity from flowing back onto lines a working lineman would expect to be "dead": not energized.
- Systems must have appropriate switches in place to disconnect the home from the grid during a grid outage, if the homeowner wants the generator to continue to operate. Consult with your manufacturer/installer and a licensed electrician. **Warning**: if you do this wrong people may die; please don't mess with electricity without proper precautions, and don't break National Electric Code--it's there for a reason!
What will the utility pay me for excess energy I generate?
- KS passed a "net-metering" bill in 2009, requiring investor-owned utilities (Westar, KCPL and Empire) to purchase excess energy from consumer generators at retail rate (the same rate they sell it to you.)
- You must size your generator to match your load; the generation limit is 200kW, and if you generate more than you use over a full year, the excess goes to the utility for free.
- Electric cooperative utilities are only required to pay 150% of avoided cost (cost of fuel) to "co-generators". That means in the range of 4-6 cents/kWh, depending on the utility and its price of fuel.
- Westar Energy makes its "avoided cost" or "fuel cost" per month public here.
- Some Kansas cooperative utilities are starting to net-meter for small homeowner systems (<10kW). Check with your local utility.
Can you help me find a job in the wind industry?