There are a couple of things small wind turbines do have in common with big wind turbines, however.
First, they fare best – and really only makes sense – if they are placed well above ground. At 120 feet high, Baldwin is in the 80 to 140-foot range that Bergey recommends for a 10 kW turbine.
According to the Distributed Wind Energy Association, for which Bergey is acting president, “a 5 kW residential wind turbine on a 35-foot tower in an open area might produce 1,200 kilowatt-hours annually in a moderate wind regime, but the same turbine on a 115-foot tower would generate 9,000 kWh per year.”
Second, and related to that point: Forget about those funky vertical-axis wind turbines — the ones that go on a little pole in your backyard or just above your roof — that we’re always writing about on EarthTechling. “There are a lot of bozos and shysters out there pushing those things,” Bergey said. “You guys give way too much credence to them. If you look at the science behind most of those systems, you’ll see they aren’t going to deliver anywhere near what they promise, and yet most people in the public have no ability to make that kind of assessment.”
That’s why Bergey and what he calls legitimate small-wind companies have gotten behind the Small Wind Certification Council. It’s a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to lab-test and certify the power production claims and other aspects of small wind turbines. So far, two turbines – including the Bergey model that Baldwin is eyeing – have gained full certification, while several others have earned conditional temporary certification and a couple dozen more are undergoing testing.
The program is new but a number of states – including California, Wisconsin, Oregon and New York – either already require or are moving toward requiring certification in order to qualify for renewable energy incentives, so it figures to grow.
Certified turbines get a product label that gives a figure for annual kilowatt-hours of power production, a rated sound level and a rated power output. For instance, the Baldwin turbine, assuming an annual average wind speed of 11.2 mph, is certified to produce 13,800 kWh per year and spin at 42.9 dB(A) with an output of 8.9 kW.
According to the Journal article, Baldwin’s turbine “is expected to cost $97,050, but that price will be offset by an anticipated $38,185 rebate from LIPA (his power company) and a $17,660 federal tax credit.”
“He’s in a good wind area, he’s got space, power is relatively expensive and he’s got some good incentives – those are the factors that can make distributed wind a great choice,” Bergey said. New York, in fact, is a prime market for Bergey Windpower, though mostly Upstate New York, not the tony Hamptons. California, where power is also expensive, is a good market as well.