Waring Architects is extremely interested in promoting and endorsing opportunities for property owners to take absolute ownership of their own electrical power generation and consumption. In this era of wildly accelerating concern over energy costs, the questionable reality of any kind of meaningful future in fossil fuels and serious concerns about global climate change, the time has never been better for owners to seriously consider investing in proven technologies of electrical cogeneration using freely available resources of sunlight, wind, and running water.
Waring Architects is proud to have specified and overseen the installation of the first grid-tied wind turbine generator ever brought online in the states of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Wind turbine requirements: If your property enjoys wide open space and lots of wind, then wind turbine generators can be the sensible option. Twelve(12) to 15 mph average wind speeds are considered the minimum to make this particular method of cogeneration economically feasible. Their real advantage lies in the fact that, unlike solar panels, there is no limit to how much electricity they can generate, day or night.
Cogeneration tax credits: The State of Louisiana and United States Government are also extremely interested in promoting cogeneration, so much so that they are offering combined incentives that will actually pay for 80% of the cost of designing, purchasing, and installing these systems using State and Federal tax credits and rebates! Other States also have generous credits and incentives but Louisiana’s is among the very best. Detailed information is available on a web site that covers the complete database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy.
Power storage: Because these systems actually rely on the electrical grid to store the power generated, no dangerous and expensive banks of batteries are required; however, there is usually a minimum charge by the utility provider (usually averaging $20/month) for the use and maintenance of the power grid as a storage medium. Any power you generate, in excess of what you use, actually spins your electrical meter backwards thereby banking kilowatt hour credits for your future use.
What’s right for you: The decision whether to use photovoltaic panels, wind turbine generators, hydroelectric generators, or some combination can be a complex one. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to approach a “Net Zero” status; that is, your home or business produces, on its own, all of the electricity that it consumes. Waring Architects can perform the detailed micro-environmental site analysis to help you decide which alternative is best for you. We are knowledgeable about all of these technologies and each of them has its own advantages and drawbacks.
Which wind turbine generator is best: We researched the market carefully and selected the SkyStream 3.7 unit for these first-ever installations for a number of reasons. This 12-foot blade-diameter unit is American-made in Arizona by Southwest Windpower, an extremely well established company with a great reputation that is the largest of the small wind power manufacturers in the world. It is extremely durable and is designed for the harshest marine grade environments. These units are ruggedly fabricated and the company sells them with a 25-year warranty. Southwest Windpower has a proven track record of servicing warranty claims quickly and professionally. Also, the SkyStream 3.7 is virtually maintenance free…the first scheduled maintenance is 20 years for blade replacement.
The SkyStream 3.7 has a built-in inverter so the output is in alternating current (AC), ready to plug directly into any residential breaker panel. It has the ability to output data wirelessly to its own PC-based computer application which can track electrical kilowatt production, wind speed, operating temperature and a host of other analytical and diagnostic data points. The unit, which sits atop a 44 foot tall standard steel utility pole, is visually beautiful but unobtrusive, remarkably quiet and its three six-foot blades are elegantly swept like a gull’s wing.
Shortly after the television news broadcasts announcing our wind turbine generator installation and demonstrating the feasibility of wind generated electricity, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Commission announced the installation of their own pilot wind turbine generator unit. They chose the same SkyStream 3.7 unit we used and are closely monitoring its performance and output. If the unit bears out their expectations, it’s our understanding that they plan to install multiple wind turbine generators on the world’s longest bridge in order to generate their own electricity to power the roadway lighting, drawbridges, toll booths and administrative facilities.
Technology advances: Southwest Windpower has just announced the release of the new SkyStream 600 which features three important improvements over the 3.7:
1. It produces 74% more energy with an increase of cost of only about 15%.
2. It has slightly larger blades that geometrically double the swept area of captured wind.
3. It features a built-in microprocessor capable of communicating with a technician and special software that can be tuned up.
These new turbines can tell the technician what the wind speed is, from about four meters per second to about seventeen meters per second. Knowing what the wind speed is, the technician can correlate it to performance. Given that data, he can actually modify the software to optimize the performance of the machine according to prevailing micro-environmental weather patterns.
Hurricane protection: Any wind turbine generator used in an area that is already prone to storms must be designed to both manage and withstand 140 mph hurricane wind force loads. Wind turbine generators do this using one of two techniques. Either the blades can be “feathered” or rotated in their sockets to eliminate any wind resistance or else the unit is equipped with brushless, contactless, electromagnetic “brakes” that serve to slow the unit down to prevent damage to it. The SkyStream uses this latter method.
Foundation requirements: The other major issue is the significant structural foundation required to resist hurricane wind forces. Waring Architects works with professional, licensed and insured structural engineers familiar with the geological conditions to design the necessary foundations so that they will be more than strong enough (by a factor of 100%) to ensure that the unit will survive any storm.
The SkyStream 3.7’s we installed required a massive 10’x10′ six-foot thick solid concrete foundation, with heavy steel reinforcement throughout, supported by four 30-foot pilings connected to the foundation with bolted-on, half-inch thick, steel stirrups. The pole was connected to this foundation using eight 1 1/2-inch diameter, 4 foot long, L-bolts. The reason such a massive foundation is required is twofold: first, the 44 foot tall pole essentially acts as a huge lever setting up tremendous rotational moment forces; second, the foundation has to accommodate the vibrations communicated down the steel pole from the wind turbine generator unit which actually, depending on the wind speed, can spin up to significant RPMs.
Bird strikes: So far, we have witnessed only one bird strike; but shortly after installation two bats were killed by one of the units. We’re not aware of any further mishaps among the five wind turbine generators now operating on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain.
Disclaimer: Having said all of that, please remember that I’m sharing with you my best understanding concerning all of this. Every project is different; otherwise, why would you need an architect? Before you absolutely rely on anything here, it is really important that you let us take a look at your individual situation, your individual building and your individual property. I don’t want anyone to construe any of this as the absolute last word on anything. Stuff changes all the time. Needless to say, we’re not structural engineers, nor are we solar panel manufacturers, wind turbine generator manufacturers, accountants, or, for that matter, lawyers. That is why I believe that consultation with licensed and insured professionals is so important.
If you’re interested in considering a wind turbine generator on your property; please contact Waring Architects right away. We will be glad to help you to make the decision that is right for you and your property.