First small wind workshop a success

Annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair will be Aug. 12-13 at the Ogle County Fairgrounds

Eighteen people participated in the IREA’s first small wind workshop this past weekend, May 13-14. Most of them were interested in gaining basic understandings from which to determine whether they would consider such an installation on their own property. Almost all had an acre or more of land they felt could accommodate a wind installation. We expect some of the participants will end up owning similar systems in the near future.

A few wondered whether their communities would permit them to install a system. One town in Iowa recently passed an ordinance allows an in-town installation if immediate neighbors agree to its presence.

The introductory workshop covered site assessment, environmental considerations, production estimation, system costs, payback and financing, basic equipment, tower raising and safety considerations.

It included hands-on experiences with our Bergey BWC XL. 1-24. It is a 1-kilowatt, 24-volt system designed to charge batteries and supply electric loads as D.C. power, which must be inverted to A.C. to match that provided by Commonwealth Edison. Since the wind generator produces 24 volts, we used a converter to raise the voltage to 48 volts to connect to the photovoltaic system.

The turbine weighs 75 pounds and has three fiberglass blades that sweep an 8.2-foot diameter. It is mounted on a 64-foot collapsible tower. Steel cables attached to the tower at 20-foot intervals connected to ground mounts hold the tower in place. We chose a collapsible tower so we could lower the tower and generator for educational workshops such as the one held this past weekend.

The turbine is free to pivot around the top of the tower so the rotor will face into the wind. A tail boom and fin keep the unit facing the wind up to speeds of 28 mph. Above that speed, the rotor turns away from the wind to prevent it from turning too fast and being damaged. Most of the electrical generation occurs at wind speeds between 12 and 20 mph.

The electricity generated by the rotor is carried down the hollow center of the tube and underground to the controller. The controller limits voltage sent to the battery pack to prevent overcharging and damaging it. The electricity passes into the battery pack and then into the inverter, which converts it from D.C. to A.C.

While the tower can be raised or lowered using a tractor or four-wheel drive truck, we tested a winch powered by an electric drill. It worked well lowering the tower, but the drill overheated when attempting to raise the tower since we were working against gravity. Overheating presented a challenge to the group, which responded with “good old Yankee ingenuity” to solve the problem. Some lifted the tower while others helped to pull it up using the freed cables.

The small wind generator served our educational purposes well.

People who missed the workshop let us know they would appreciate another one later this year. We look forward to offering more workshops.

An additional benefit of participating in our workshops is membership in the Illinois Renewable Energy Association, which allows free entry into the Annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair to be held Aug. 12-13, 2006, at the Ogle County Fairgrounds.

A solar electric workshop will be Saturday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at our farm, 1230 E. Honey Creek Rd., near Oregon, Ill.. The fee is $30, payable upon arrival. Registration is open until 4:00 p.m., Friday, May 19.

From the May 17-23, 2006, issue

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