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Author Topic: Windmill vs. solar panels  (Read 3734 times)
pipopak
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« on: November 30, 2011, 04:51:45 PM »

I have the crazy idea that a windmill would be better than solar panels in a bus because:
1) it is cheaper and easier to maintain
2) works 24/7/365 as long as is there some breeze
3) works in any weather (within reason. Hurricanes not recommended).
4) can be made easily removable for driving

Am I right?.
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Sean
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2011, 05:11:24 PM »

...
Am I right?.

Not really:

Quote
1) it is cheaper and easier to maintain

Solar is running about $1.75/watt right now and has no moving parts and thus zero maintenance, other than maybe keeping the panels clean.  Wind turbines are running about $1.15/watt, but have lots of moving parts that need to be replaced periodically such as bearings, blades, and, eventually, the rotor and/or stator.  Lifetime cost per watt is probably comparable or a little higher for wind, but it is definitely not a slam-dunk as you suggest.

Quote
2) works 24/7/365 as long as is there some breeze


Umm, no.  "Some breeze" will not cut it -- you basically need winds of 10-15 kts steady to get any power from them at all, below that many won't even turn.  These only work well in places where steady wind of above 10 kts is a given.

Quote
3) works in any weather (within reason. Hurricanes not recommended).

Also, no.  Above 40 kts or so, they become problematic.  You pretty much need to feather them once you start seeing gusts above 60 kts or so, if you can.  Lots will depend on the mount you fabricate.  And, as noted, below 10 kts or so, they really don't provide any power.

Quote
4) can be made easily removable for driving

Well, OK, but I would turn this around and say that an advantage of solar is that it does not need to be removed for driving, and, in fact, continues to provide charge.

On top of all this, they are noisy as all get out.  I know boaters that will leave an anchorage if they see a rag-hanger with one of these monsters come in.  FWIW.

If you spend several months of the year in a place where one of these will work well, they can be a real boon.  For most RVers who move around more frequently than that, they are probably not a worthwhile investment.

-Sean
http://OurOdyssey.BlogSpot.com
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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2011, 05:27:36 PM »

They make noise, and as noted, offended neighbours in some locales will forcefully remove you and/or your weedwhacker, rather than move themselves.

I'm pretty sure a BB gun would provide some entertainment pinging off chunks of the blades and watching it go all wonky as it spins off balance.

Oh, I'm sorry, is my bias showing?

happy coaching!
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« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2011, 05:56:19 PM »

Totally and 100% agree with Sean's answer above. 

We often get asked why we don't do a wind generator in our RV setups.  And that is exactly why.  Solar is absolutely quiet, so passive and you really don't have to think much about it after you get it set up.  No set up, no take down, no noise, no angry neighbors ... and works in many more weather conditions. And these days, the panels are pretty darn cheap in comparison. 

We'll be sticking with solar when we complete our electrical system, and not even considering wind.

 - Cherie
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pipopak
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« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2011, 06:52:29 PM »

Good!!. Asked a question and got a civilized detailed answer. Bad idea. File in the insane stuff folder. Thanks!.
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« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2011, 07:06:59 PM »

A very educational thread! Thanks, people!

Please excuse my ignorance:

Would there be a similar monetary investment in either solar panels or wind power as far as the battery bank, charger/regulator, etc?

Thanks in advance!
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« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2011, 08:47:51 PM »

(snip)  Would there be a similar monetary investment in either solar panels or wind power as far as the battery bank, charger/regulator, etc?   

    Some details will vary but (pretty much watt per watt), yes, the investment in these "controller/storage items" will be similar.
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« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2011, 02:53:30 AM »

I vote for both....

Adding a turbine to your solar array will help you on cloudy days, & night time when the sun is unavailable!

Usually lots of wind when bad weather is blocking the sun..

Nick-
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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2011, 03:31:07 AM »

Yes, my inclination is to say 'Both' as well, especially as they can share the same charge controller and battery bank.

Wind turbines are also something which you can theoretically build yourself, which would make the cost/benefit comparison with PVs a bit meaningless.

Jeremy
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« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2011, 05:25:26 AM »

I thought you meant a big propeller on the top of the bus to get free power as you drive down the road, connected to an alternator to run the roof AC!  That is what I am going to do - as soon as the laws of physics get repealed!   Grin

Brian
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pipopak
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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2011, 05:48:23 AM »

(sounds from pawing through the trash looking for my discarded idea) so it is not THAT nuts, a small turbine as either a backup or complement to the panels. So I could theoretically have less or smaller panels and use the turbine when is not a P.I.T.A. for the rest of the world. I would really have to shot back to somebody with a man's size rifle (no pathetic BBs for me).
There are videos in youtube about making your own turbine, actual cost almost next to nothing. There is even a guy who made them out of discarded ceiling fan motors, posted a whole series of vids detailing the operation. Will look for them later and post the link.
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« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2011, 06:53:24 AM »

  This guy up the road has been "playing". He started out with two GM 60 amp alternators with props attached, and then began buying solar panels and covering his garage. Hes got a bank of "used" car and deep cycle batteries (nothing matches), a charge controller he bought off ebay and an AC inverter I think he said was 4K watts.

  He said he started with the mini wind turbines, but that by the time he had the third cell up he no longer needed the wind. He claims he can run everything he needs in the garage, lights, occasional power tools like a drill or whatever, and still watch TV all night in the house after running a dedicated circuit into the house. Thats a large 40 some inch flat screen and surround sound. Last I looked he had 6 panels (bought at harbor freight) on the one side of the garage roof, not even well situated to the suns path. He thought that if he could cover the rest of the one side of the garage roof, he wouldnt need metered service anymore.

  It all looks pretty Rube Golberg, but its working and he does not have much invested, he said maybe a years worth of electric bills.

 
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« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2011, 07:28:00 AM »

Quite some time ago, I saw presentation on vertical shaft windmills (think "cup" type water wheel mounted horizontally).  The thesis was they could be mounted on the roof of a building (small vertical footprint), would not have a prop that was detrimental to birds and was quieter.

I did a bit of a search this morning and the following site seems to be objective:

http://www.exege.com/vertical-axis-windmills

Looks like it is a compromised system, but might have some application in RVs

Jim
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« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2011, 09:01:33 AM »

I vote for solar panels, and then (if off the power pole) just run the generator.  You can (and should) make the generator to be just about silent running (think movie studio on site generators) so not to disturb your neighbors.  A bladed wind turbine would take many hours (if not all day) to charge up the batteries-of which the generator could do a big bulk of in just 2 hours. Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2011, 09:38:07 AM »

A bladed wind turbine would take many hours (if not all day) to charge up the batteries-of which the generator could do a big bulk of in just 2 hours. Good Luck, TomC

A wind-turbine of the size we're talking about would take weeks to fully charge a set of bus house batteries. Let's not kid ourselves that either solar or wind is ever going to replace a diesel generator or shore-power - unless perhaps you have a very expensive alternative-power set-up, and are living very frugally in an area with ideal sun/wind conditions.

In reality, all solar panels or a boat / RV-type wind turbine will do is make life a little easier by, for example, giving the batteries a small but useful continuous float-charge to keep them topped off when the bus isn't being used.


On the subject of vertical axis turbines - this is the type I will build myself when I finally get around to it, because the area where I would mount it has very disturbed wind. But be aware that vertical-axis turbine are inherently much less efficient than the conventional type because, aerodynamically-speaking, they work only by drag, not lift:- in simple terms, a horizontal-axis turbine will spin far faster than the speed of the wind, which a vertical-axis turbine cannot do.

Jeremy
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