Without question, wind is a tough renewable energy resource to tap. The best wind resource is high above the ground, requiring tall towers. And it’s an unforgiving resource, pounding on the equipment, which needs to be robust and requires regular maintenance. Building machines that can be productive while withstanding the rigors of life at tower top is no easy task. Add to this that uneducated customers want to keep costs down, and we end up with unrealistic expectations and market pressure for lower-quality equipment. What’s a potential wind energy lover to do?
First, learn enough about the resource at your site, system design, and the equipment available, so you can approach the project with your eyes wide open. Then be realistic about the cost. Buying “cheap” is not the best idea in most cases—but with wind energy systems, it’s a very bad idea indeed. The results of buying and installing on the cheap are nonproductive, short-lived systems.
David Laino’s article on wind physics in this issue will give you the science background on the wind resource, and it will help fend off misconceptions and scams that ignore the physical realities of capturing wind energy. This article gives you specifications on the viable wind turbines in the U.S. market today, with background on the companies. It’s a good start in researching what turbines might be best for you.
But this article is just a start—we recommend you seek information from a variety of sources. An experienced wind installer is a strong resource—consult with wind experts in person or at renewable energy conferences and workshops. And the Internet is a remarkable tool for finding out which turbines are actually working, and whether manufacturers are responsive and supportive.
The criteria for inclusion in Home Power’s wind turbine buyer’s guide are straightforward. We include all the turbines sized to serve the home-to-ranch scale wind market that have U.S. sales and support, have a track record and warranty, and have shown to experienced wind energy professionals that they are viable machines. There are other machines marketed in the United States—but the ones included here have stood the test of time, and/or have certification to appropriate standards.
This is a moving target in our small industry, where companies enter the market, then change hands, change product lines, or go bankrupt. It’s not our intention to slight any model or company, or to favor any. We are trying to apply our experience combined with some objective standards to give Home Power readers the best shot at capturing wind energy successfully.
The machines in the table are ordered by swept area/diameter, from smallest to largest. In this article, the companies are listed alphabetically by company name. Information was supplied by the manufacturers themselves when possible, or estimated from manufacturers’ marketing materials.
Bergey Windpower Co. (BWC) in Norman, Oklahoma, was founded in 1977 by Karl and Mike Bergey. The family-owned company is a worldwide supplier of small wind turbines in the 1 to 10 kW capacity range.
BWC wind turbines are known for their mechanical simplicity, robustness, and reliability. BWC has pioneered key industry technologies such as integrated direct-drive generators, passive controls, pultruded fiberglass blades, and custom airfoils, and offers the longest warranties in the wind industry. BWC directly manufactures its own components, and produces tilt-up and stationary guyed towers.
BWC has shipped more than 9,000 units since production began more than 30 years ago. President and CEO Mike Bergey identifies “reliability and low maintenance” as the special qualities of BWC’s turbine line.