Wind Power

In BC's Central Interior

Wind Power
We have been monitoring several wind turbine installations in the area. There are days when wind turbines produce but solar does not. However, in this area, wind that is strong enough to produce a meaningful amount of energy is quite rare. Gusts of wind are not useful because of their short duration and in fact are hard on wind turbines because of the stress that they put on the equipment.

Some people get interested in wind power because it feels like "we get a lot of wind at our place". What they don't understand is the difference between a refreshing breeze and "production winds". If it isn't windy enough for a flag to be standing out from its flag pole, then it is not a production wind. The power in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind velocity. That is, when the wind speed doubles, the power production goes up by a factor of 8 times, not just double. Conversely, when the wind speed drops by half, you get 1/8 the amount of power. This velocity cubed relationship makes it virtually impossible to predict what the performance of a wind turbine will be without using instruments to log the wind velocity and duration.

Wind data loggers are expensive and have to be installed on a tower at the same height as the turbine will be. Wind turbines need to be about 10m (30 feet) above any object within 150 meters, including the height that the trees will be 20 years from now. In this area, that generally means 100 feet, which is the highest you can go without putting lights on the tower. If you really have your heart set on installing a wind turbine, your best bet is to look at existing installations in the area and ask about the investment in time and money and the amount of energy produced. This of course assumes that they are recording that data.

The bottom line is that in this area, the numbers just don't stack up in favor of wind energy. Investing in more solar modules will give about 10 times the return on investment that a wind turbine will. When deciding on wind or solar, look at what each will do for you over the course of a year, not just on a few days.

Just because a wind turbine is turning, doesn't mean that it is producing power!

A 1970s vintage Dunlite wind turbine rated at 2kw continuous, 3kw for 4-hours. This unit was re-built and installed near Prince George.

More information about Dunlite wind turbines and the early history of the Dunlite company is available here.