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An illogical flip-flop on micro power

The author writes: For nearly two decades now, Windpower Monthly has used its articles and editorials to refute utility and fossil energy company claims that large-scale wind turbines are less efficient and more expensive than conventional sources, and they require costly back-up generation. So it was surprising to see you use these same arguments against the use of micro power generation in your editorial "Small may be beautiful" (Windpower Monthly, September 2005). The logic of your flip-flop escapes me.

For nearly two decades now, Windpower Monthly has used its articles and editorials to refute utility and fossil energy company claims that large-scale wind turbines are less efficient and more expensive than conventional sources, and they require costly back-up generation. So it was surprising to see you use these same arguments against the use of micro power generation in your editorial "Small may be beautiful" (Windpower Monthly, September 2005). The logic of your flip-flop escapes me.

There is a significant market demand for privately owned, on-site micro-gen systems, as evidenced by the high volume of inquires received by all wind power companies and the huge residential solar markets in Germany, Japan, and California (fuelled by aggressive subsidy programs). In fact, three quarters of the visitors to the American Wind Energy Associations' web site visit the small wind pages. Small wind labours under poor policy support and difficult permitting barriers, but progress is being made and eventually the industry should break through the cost/volume barrier. Mass markets for small, grid-intertied wind systems are certainly possible and they are no threat to the large wind turbine industry.

Several years ago the US small wind turbine industry, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and the US Department of Energy produced a roadmap for the development of the technology and the industry through 2020. The AWEA Small Wind Roadmap document, which is available at www.awea.org , outlines the potential, the barriers, and the prioritized actions that could lead to a very significant industry.

Individuals want to make an equity investment in an electrical generator, so that the money they would pay anyway for a service then goes to paying off an asset. At some point the equipment is paid off and the generated electricity truly is free. It is analogous to buying a home versus renting a home. Most all of the large wind development is corporate. There are very few countries with tax laws and utility regulations that allow individual homeowners to buy a share of a distant large turbine, take a tax credit, and have their proportional share of its production accounted as if it was generated on their site. The closest most can come is to buy green power at a premium. Green power is terrible economically for the individual.

Our vision is of small wind as a mainstream home appliance -- a "ceiling fan on steroids." The recent run up in energy prices and growing concerns over long term conventional energy supply are helping us get the political attention that is at the core of our industry's fate.

Maybe its time to admit that when you open your electric bill each month, you wish you too had a wind turbine on your side of the meter.

Our leader was at pains not to attack micro wind power in general, for which there are many good uses as we stated, but to point out that on-site renewables generation on a grand scale is reliant on a centralised network to be in any way economically practical. Talk of a green power "energy revolution" that dispenses with a centralised network is nonsense. Furthermore, we wished to make the point that investment in utility scale wind will save more pollution than the same sum invested in small scale wind, a fact unlikely to change for some considerable time, if ever. There is a danger in politicians being led to believe that household wind power can do the job of utility scale wind power. There is no argument with homeowners choosing to generate their own power. Editor

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