Choosing a small wind turbine for your station

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In the article "Feel the Power" (Radio magazine, July 2008) I discussed alternative power generation and briefly touched on the wind-powered generator at KPAN radio in Hereford, TX. This time I'll talk about wind power generation in greater detail (though this will not be a primer on exactly how to implement such a system) so you can form a more realistic idea as to whether or not such a system would work as part of your broadcast facility. I'll also revisit KPAN as a case study.

If you look closely at most power consumers you will find the majority use power with less-than-ideal efficiency; that is likely because over the last 100 years or more electric power has been easy to come by and, for the most part, cheap. There has been little if any economic incentive to maximize the efficiency of electrical usage.

A small wind turbine from African Wind Power.

A small wind turbine from African Wind Power.

But now, as attention in the United States is turned on our own energy independence (or at the very least minimizing our dependence upon foreign sources) and an increasing desire to limit carbon emissions, alternative and renewable sources of energy (while not new) are being looked upon much more favorably. In addition to being clean, they are now becoming more economically attractive; electricity is getting more expensive (thus reducing the payback time for the investment in a wind generator, for example) and many state governments offer tax incentives that offset substantial portions of the investment.

Basic steps

But where does one start, in determining whether or not a wind generator is a good investment? I have found various manufacturers and users of wind generation equipment agree on the basic steps, which are compiled in the following list.

Know your baseline usage. For one thing, the wind generators mentioned later are relatively small; you won't be powering a 50kW transmitter site with them. The largest system I'll mention will provide 10kW peak — with its average being lower. Likely, the best way to determine your usage in kilowatt hours (kWh) over the year is to study your electricity bill. If you are building a new system then make use of your engineering expertise to make your best estimate your needs.

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