When traveling in Europe in 2007, I noticed a lot of wind power installations. Here are some photographs.
|This tower caught my eye because it was standing alone, and it's more usual to see groups of towers. It is a privately constructed system, which is used to supply power to a quarry.|
It seems that distributed generation from wind energy is commercially viable here, perhaps due to government subsidies.
There are a LOT of wind turbines in Northern Germany. From the train between Hamburg and Berlin many clusters of towers were visible.
In the North (see map for approximate location) I came across these blades in a field, with a single tower visible in the distance.
The blades were made of fiberglass, and were light (for the size) and flexible: I could flex them easily by applying light pressure. There were 52 bolts embedded in the mounting end.
|This is the flat side of the blade, which faces the wind.|
It looks like it is about 3 meters at the broadest point.
| This is the rounded face of the blade, which generates lift due the lower pressure caused by faster moving air.|
This is very different to a wind pump, which uses multiple flat vanes which are pushed slowly around by the wind.
|These labels were on the blades in various places.|
|This is near the Baltic sea, and was built in 1991. It claims to provide power for 390 households.|
I count 105 solar panels in this photograph. In South African prices that's over half a million rand! So here, this just couldn't be commercially viable, which prompts the question, what are we doing wrong? Perhaps the prices are too high due to low volumes and high profit margins. Also, if there were more government incentives, it might kickstart the process by stimulating demand, increasing volumes, and bringing prices down.
This site is a few kilometers from the sea at Ostend. It is a clever location - close to a highway which allows easy access for heavy vehicles such as trucks and cranes, and in grazing fields so that minimal space is dedicated to the towers. The open fields also mean there is less disruption to the air flow than there would be in a built up area, meaning more energy can be extracted from the wind. What is more, it is difficult to argue that the six towers are more aesthetically displeasing than the thousands of lamp poles along the highway.
| Note how the blade tips have a similar shape on the end to jet wing tips, but in the opposite direction.|
A criticism often directed against wind generators is the noise factor - here I am trying to hear the noise...
The blade movement was completely inaudible. The only sound was an electrical humming from the tower similar to a building air conditioner, which could only be heard from within a few meters. The traffic passing on the highway was much louder.
Perhaps there are noisy wind generators, but I have not yet heard one.
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