15 Sep

Windstream solar/wind hybrid mills looking to get into Jamaica

An interesting vertical wind turbine and solar power unit that’s intriguing gets coverage in the Jamaica Gleaner due to some support and interest it is getting in Jamaica.

It seems to be $3,000 a unit:

“‘One of the cries from Jamaicans is the need for alternatives, and the SolarMill goes and takes the solar installation one step further, because when the sun is not out the wind is still blowing. So it really gives you more power for your dollar,’ she asserted.

Tomblin said this product was a distinct solution for the market and customers were already asking for it.

President of WindStream Technologies, Daniel Bates, said the SolarMill would provide a viable option to complement energy needs in the country, adding that it could be utilised by residential and commercial customers.”

(Via JPS goes solar – Energy provider to market hybrid power generators – Lead Stories – Jamaica Gleaner – Saturday | September 14, 2013.)

I perused the PDF documents pretty quickly. It looks like you’d need 3-4 of these to cover a household, but the wind/solar combo is intriguing in that it allows you to continue making power at night.

Is it cost effective, though, compared to just going all solar and tying into the grid? I can’t quite see from the info provided. But for a non-grid situation, or rural Jamaica with low-power needs and varying power availability (and given high island Caribbean power costs due to most power being made with imported fuel), coupled with a payment plan, items like this could gain some traction. I’d still want to see more info.

Incidentally, Windstream’s site is everything I hate about many kit-oriented alternative energy sellers. It does everything it can to avoid telling you the cost. In this day and age, people should be able to get on, see what it costs, click, and buy. End of story. If you’re honestly invested in, as the site claims, ECOnomical Energy (heh), then stop being dodgy on your costs. If SpaceX can be upfront about space launch costs, you can be about power generators.

Unless you’re charging some customers more than others who want flagship ‘look at us, we’re ECOnscious!’ like the touted embassies on their page.

11 Aug

Wind is cheap


“Anyone who tells you wind power is expensive is bad-shit crazy. Wind power is the cheapest option for new electricity generation in many if not most places in the world, including much of the US. That would indeed help to explain why the US installed more wind power capacity than power capacity from any other source in 2012, 42% (or 43%?) of all new power capacity in the country.

In announcing a recent report released by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Berkeley Lab actually noted that, ‘The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged $40/MWh for projects negotiating contracts 2011 and 2012, spurring demand for wind energy.’

That’s $0.04 per kWh. Even if you add in the $0.022 Production Tax Credit (PTC), that’s $0.062 per kWh.”

(Via US Wind Power Prices Down To $0.04 Per kWh | CleanTechnica.)

For comparison, general electricity power in the US is anywhere from 6.82 cents to 33 cents depending on location, buy-in agreements, etc, according to this chart by the Energy Information Administration. So even unsubsidized wind seems pretty cheap, if that info from that Berkely Lab report is correct.

Certainly it’s not the cheapest, but that shouldn’t be the only calculation. Realizing how low it actually is, it’s no surprise that a) with a subsidy of 2 cents it’s taking off as far as new energy installations and b) really should be encouraged more.

01 May

Wind turbines with batteries and smart software


“The 2.5-MW windmill is something of a technological leap in an industry where turbines have gotten bigger and bigger but not necessarily smarter. The turbine’s software captures tens of thousands of data points each second on wind and grid conditions and then adjusts production, storing electricity in an attached 50 kilowatt-hour sodium nickel chloride battery. If, say, a wind farm is generating too much electricity to absorbed by the grid—not an uncommon occurrence in gusty west Texas—it can store the electricity in the battery. When the wind dies down, the electricity can be released from the battery and put back on the grid.”

(Via Meet the internet-enabled, big data-crunching, energy-storing smart wind turbine – Quartz.)

09 Apr

Today I went on a trip to the Blue Creek Wind Farm

pic via Blue Creek Wind Farm/Iberdrola

One of my oldest writing buddies, Charlie Finlay, works for Ohio State University, and alerted me to a media event OSU was holding to talk about its partnership with the Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert County, which was installed and run by a Spanish Wind Power corporation, Iberdrola, with local headquarters in the US.

I’d seen the wind farm before on interstate 30 on my way to Indiana a few times. It’s truly an amazing mega project, because as you drive past for a few miles, you start seeing 328 foot tall wind turbines dotting the farm landscape. And there’re are more in the horizon. And the longer you drive, the longer you realize that there are just hundreds of them.

It’s quite an effect to realize that there are wind turbines as far as the eye can see.

152 of these things sit across 20,000 or so acres of farmland.

I’ve gotten close to some of the behemoths, so I didn’t hop on a bus for a close-up look at them (plus I doubt they’d show me the parts I was really interested in). But I did snag a few interesting facts from the tour.

The turbines can drive up to 304 megawatts in total in perfect conditions, today when we got there they were pumping 50 megawatts into the grid, and with wind picking up the engineers reported they expected 100 shortly.

The company spent $2 million a year on leases, that’s money that went to local farmers. At $2.7 million taxes they claim to be the largest tax payer in the county.

Anti-wind activists claimed the noise from 152 turbines would be unbearable. When I visited the first time there was a steady distant whoosh, but nothing as loud as a highway or a train. Both of which there are plenty of in the region.

A local farmer who spoke to us said that the highway had torn up more land, caused more grief, and was consistently louder than any of the turbines, though they’d been worried at first.

The OSU reps had an interesting story. They agreed to buy 50 megawatts of wind from the project in order to commit to an agreement by a number of universities to get carbon neutral by 2050. They anticipated the wind power purchase to cover 25% of their needs, but be more expensive than coal (brown) power. They decided that this would be an investment in their future, and go ahead anyway.

But when all was said and done, the power ended up costing them the same (and as a result of rebalancing their power portfolio, somehow even ended up costing them less, I wasn’t sure about the details of that), so they were very happy about it.

The lifespan of the turbines was 25 years, the towers they’re built on, 50. The next generation of turbines can provide 3 and 4 megawatts, potentially doubling the power output of the wind farm.

Ohio, with it’s predictable wind patterns and large flat landscapes, seems well suited to this, and they’re talking about building more of these in the area (Findlay is where they’re eyeing).

A couple of things I wanted to interrogate them on where, what, if any, subsidies they had and what that added to the per megawatt cost. I also was curious to see if they had any charts indicating the slope of coal-cost parity, as they seem to beating it in some cases. And I wanted to ask a bit more about night vs daytime, and how steady their output of power was.

But mostly, since there’s a massive wind farm now operational just down the road from me, one of the biggest in the US, I want to know how I can buy my home power from them. Something I’ll be investigating over the next weeks.