Future of Small-Scale Wind Power

Wind power is one renewable energy source that’s fixing its flaws and being used for small-scale production.

  • Dan Juhl, who understands farm life from his own childhood in Woodstock, Minnesota, has been creating profitable business arrangements to encourage small-scale wind power cooperatives.
    Photo by Fotolia/RG
  • "The Upcycle," by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, imagines a world that goes beyond sustainability to create abundance — a world where every citizen thinks big, even if actions are only small.
    Cover courtesy North Point Press

Authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart seek a world that is full of clean air, water, soil and power. In their latest ecological manifesto, The Upcycle (North Point Press, 2013), that is precisely the goal they envision. They propose that a better designed world would lead to overall prosperity. In the following excerpt, from “Wind Equals Food,” see how the revamping of wind power can used to produce clean energy, even on a small-scale.

Purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Upcycle.

Wind Power: A Renewable Fixing Its Flaws

What makes large-scale hydropower so troublesome is that it does not allow for easy revision. What if the designers and engineers are wrong? How can the structure adapt? If you’ve flooded square miles of wilderness and built a dam 63 stories tall, it’s hard to revise, to amend the system. It is not much different than strip mining or generating nuclear waste in that one has no opportunity to revise. That’s why we believe the best solution is a humble approach combining small solutions that add up to something huge.

Wind power was a renewable that seemed flawed early on but is now fixing its problems step by step. Wind power had the advantage of not massively reconfiguring our terrain at the start and then discovering the downside. That relatively smaller profile allowed wind power to adapt, fix itself, and grow.

Wind power, of course, is nothing new. Windmills have been used for centuries to grind grain on Mykonos, drain the polders of Holland, or pump water from wells into fields in North America. Before rural electrification in the United States, tens of thousands of small electric wind generators dotted the rural landscape. In the 1970s and ’80s, the U.S. government funded the development of large-scale wind turbines, as did other countries such as Denmark, Germany, Spain, India, and, later, China. Now there are many manufacturers of large-scale wind turbines in the market, including big companies like General Electric.

The market for wind blows hot and cold based on local energy pricing, available tax incentives, market production, transportation costs, and so on, but generally, it has been a fast-growing renewable energy sector. Since the 1980s, the cost per kilowatt-hour of wind has dropped 80 percent; it is approximately 2¢ cheaper per kWh than coal-powered electricity on the U.S. market as of June 2012. And that’s without accounting for the cost it saves our system due to decreased carbon dioxide emissions. About 24 percent of Denmark’s energy needs reportedly are met by wind, and the country has plans to grow that to 50 percent by 2020. Serious wind development is happening. It has all the hallmarks of a new industry with ups and downs, but it is clearly here to stay—even with cheap natural gas coming from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in shale formations.

3/10/2019 6:20:24 PM

Why haven't the magnetic generators been developed yet? Or have the inventors of magnetic power generators all been killed off?

11/5/2017 9:31:33 AM

Does anyone make a small scale wind turbine designed for residential properties? I have a 1/3 acre lot with lot of wind available. Steve

4/12/2014 2:55:27 PM

I have been interested in wind power for some time now but have not been able to afford it. How do we get information on this group and the pertinent information?



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