Sun, Wind and Fuel Cells

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Jumping on the bandwagon while sales are slow may produce unforeseen advantages in the future.

Now assuming your site is perfectly suited for the construction of a tower that will be topped with a wind turbine, you need to consider the model. If you want to power a small facility then at the very least you should consider the Skystream 3.7 from Southwest Wind Power. This is a wind generator that has a peak output rating of 2.4kW at a wind speed of 13m/s. It comes in two different versions: one set up for charging batteries, and one that has a built-in inverter that allows the unit to be connected directly the power grid via your ac power panel (240Vac single phase).

There again, if you are thinking bigger is better, consider the Excel from Bergey Wind Corporation. This wind turbine also comes in battery charging versions as well as the version for grid-connect (240Vac single phase output requires the addition of an optional inverter). Maximum output in a 13m/s wind is 10kW. Bergey also supplies towers for the Excel, the minimum height of which is 60".

The Clear Edge CE5 fuel cell makes use of natural gas or propane as the fuel source.

The Clear Edge CE5 fuel cell makes use of natural gas or propane as the fuel source.

There are great tax incentives in place now that will offset a substantial fraction of the cost of solar and wind systems. Both federal and state incentives exist, so discuss their impact with your vendor. The total incentive will vary on a state-by-state basis.

Fuel cells

Fuel cells are about to become an option for power generation. Matsushita has developed a PEFC fuel cell, using natural gas as the fuel, that will provide up to 1kW of output (single phase 60Hz). They are promising this unit will be available in the first quarter of 2010. One byproduct of the chemical process by which the fuel cell works is the creation of hot water — ideal for the home of course.

Natural gas probably would not be an option for a transmitter site, but propane certainly is. The Clear Edge CE5 is a fuel cell that can make use of natural gas or propane as the fuel source. This unit measures 34" by 26" by 65" in height, can be installed inside or out, and can provide up to 40A of current at 240Vac. It also makes hot water as a byproduct. It's a little quieter than a generator, too: 60dBA at 3".

Could a device such as this be the third of a triad that will allow you to get off the grid?

By recovering energy that is freely available — either from the wind or from the sunlight that shines down on us every day — you can play an active role in the greening of the world. You'll also buy yourself a certain amount of energy independence. As far as investments go, alternative power is not that great — you can make more money with certificates of deposit. We don't know what the future holds for energy prices — but it seems more likely they will increase, rather than decrease. An investment in alternative power may pay off down the road in ways that are hard to imagine today.

Irwin is transmission systems supervisor for Clear Channel NYC and chief engineer of WKTU, New York. Contact him at

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