Harnessing Wind Power for Your Home

A windmill allows you to generate electricity from the wind, an endlessly renewable resource.

| September/October 1972

Most people are not aware of the great increase in electric power consumption that has occurred in the last 10 or 20 years and which is now leading to energy shortages and environmental disaster. The trend in power consumption is ever upward and fuel combustion, generating plants and utility lines increasingly mar the landscape in even remote and otherwise unspoiled parts of our land. We must curtail our energy consumption first, then turn to alternate sources of power—such as the wind—if we want to live in tune with nature on this planet.

Before considering the wind as a source of power for your domestic needs, however, you should take a look at the electrical appliances you now have and decide which you consider essential and which are just conveniences. Wind power can be useful, but a very large and expensive windmill would be needed to operate such greedy consumers of electric energy as clothes dryers, space heaters, hot water heaters, electric ranges and large, color TV sets.

If, on the other hand, you can live with reasonably modest lighting, radios, shavers, a small black and white TV, a refrigerator and perhaps an oil burner motor and circulator . . . you may find that the wind can supply all or part of your electric energy needs.

Factors to Consider When Switching to Wind Power

Let me, however, point out some aspects of wind power that must be taken into account before embarking on any such home energy generation project. First and most obvious is the intermittent nature of this resource. Wind power is extracted from the kinetic energy of moving air and the power available from any mill at any given time is proportional to the cube of the wind velocity. Which is to say that if you can get, for example, 160 watts from a mill at a wind speed of 10 mph . . . then you can obtain 1,280 watts when the air velocity is 20 mph (if the generator has the capability), but only 20 watts at a wind speed of 5 mph.

Remember too that—depending on your location—you may find there are long intervals during which the wind will be relatively calm. If this is so, your wind generator will not put out any appreciable power for long periods, during which you'll have to resort either to energy stored in batteries, or to a standby gasoline or diesel-driven generator. If you are fortunate in having a windy site, this will be less of a problem . . . but it cannot be overlooked.

Another aspect to be considered is that of excessive winds, such as a severe storm, hurricane or tornado. Provision must be made for feathering the mills' blades, tilting the attitude of the propeller so that the wind hits the ends and edges of the fan instead of the airfoil surfaces or applying some kind of brake or aerodynamic spoiler. Automatic as well as manual operation of such a device is desirable.

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