Wind Power in Australia
Wind power is the most common form of renewable energy in Australia making up only a few percent of total energy supply. Although cost competitive with many of the non renewable fuels, wind energy has the disadvantage that electricity generation is intermittent and often other generation such as gas has to be on hand to pick up the load when the wind stops blowing. There are other ways of avoiding these negative effects such as deploying a smart grid system or providing a combination of renewable and sustainable energy sources that can pick up load during these times.
What does wind cost?
Until recently, wind energy has been largely viewed as a slightly more expensive offset, yet non renewable infrastructure has still been in place to cover entire predicted maximum load when the wind is not blowing.
This means, that although our energy source with wind is free, we still need to build the same gas fired power stations, and we still need to build the same expensive transmission infrastructure to those stations, as well as our wind farm, and transmission lines out to those wind farms where wind is a cost effective resource and location is not geographically isolated.
Wind Turbine Designs
Wind turbines come in a few different forms, however the most commonly installed type is the vertical tower with a 3 blade propeller attached at the top of the tower. There has been experimentation with other rotating structures such as the vertical axis wind turbine pictured here.
There is little choice when it comes to domestic wind turbines however in many places, these would provide excellent supplementary energy to a stand alone system or household electricity supply. Small 300W turbines can be purchased for around $500 AU and require installation in firm ground in a windy area to be effective.
There are also a number of smaller roof mounted wind turbines currently under development. These can have the form of rotating cylindrical generators which provide supplementary electricity.
DIY Wind Generator
You may want to consider building your own home wind generator. Although a relatively challenging project, for anyone with some basic DIY experience and a bit of a feel for building and mechanics, this would be a fantastic project. Basically all you need is some plastic housing and supporting structure and an old DC motor which you could find from a wreckers or second hand goods warehouse. Don't use washing machine motors by the way.
PVC can be cut and moulded to form wind turbine blades and motor housing. Some sort of supporting frame must be installed and a DC motor connected. This setup would provide an excellent complementary power source when combined with the DIY solar panel project.
Albany Wind Farm