2014 Wind Turbine Buyer's Guide

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Inside this Article

Wind Turbine Buyer’s Guide
Wind Turbine Buyer’s Guide
Bergey Excel 6
Bergey Excel 6
Bergey Excel 1
Bergey Excel 1
Bergey Excel 10
Bergey Excel 10
Endurance E-3120
Endurance E-3120
Eocycle
Eocycle
Evance R9000
Evance R9000
Gaia-Wind
Gaia-Wind
Kestrel e300i
Kestrel e300i
Kestrel e400nb
Kestrel e400nb
Kingspan KW6
Kingspan KW6
Kingspan KW3
Kingspan KW3
Northern Power Systems 100-24
Northern Power Systems 100-24
Sonkyo Windspot 3.5
Sonkyo Windspot 3.5
Ventera VT10
Ventera VT10
Wind Turbine Buyer’s Guide
Bergey Excel 6
Bergey Excel 1
Bergey Excel 10
Endurance E-3120
Eocycle
Evance R9000
Gaia-Wind
Kestrel e300i
Kestrel e400nb
Kingspan KW6
Kingspan KW3
Northern Power Systems 100-24
Sonkyo Windspot 3.5
Ventera VT10

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 Manufacturers

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. - bergey.com

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.

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Comments (5)

Robert Dee_2's picture

Ian,
Your leading statement for this article is right on.

I love these HP cover shots showing people strapped to an 80 foot tower while a crane, probably another twenty feet over their heads, drops several hundred pounds of metal on them. Why anyone thinks this is glamorous is completely beyond me. It's dangerous, expensive, takes a lot of real estate and is so much more involved than PV today that I think for all but the very few with unlimited time and expenses wind is a no. This picture, if anything, should tell people capable of looking past the glamour to pass wind by.

Yes, I know the arguments about how wind compliments PV but at what cost? At an extreme wind velocity of 11m/s the small Kestrel puts out 1Kw according to your comparison sheet. Today that's three PV modules at a fraction of the cost with little or no maintenance and 30 plus years of output with a 25 year warranty not the 5 year one Kestrel offers.

And why are manufacturers publishing 11 m/s output, who has that kind of wind? It's unrealistic and a sad commentary on an industry that can't compete in the alternate energy business outside of large scale commercial turbines.
How is anyone realistically justifying wind? At $5,544.00 for the kestrel, without the tower and yearly maintenance, it's simply not feasible today.

Sorry, if anything this issue only confirms my belief that wind has very little place in small scale energy production.

Ian Woofenden's picture

Hi Robert,

Small wind is not for the faint of heart. I talk most of my clients out of it, especially as PV cost is decreasing. You have to either have a _great_ wind resource, an off-grid system with a dark and windy season, or a strong desire to just do it for it to make sense. It is a total blast (if you like that sort of thing) to install and keep a system running, but it's not cheap, easy, or reliable.

One of the presenters at the upcoming Small Wind Conference is doing a presentation titled "Go Big or Go Home", and I think there's a lot of sense to that. The economics and the quality of the equipment both improve as you get into small commercial machines. With the little machines, the cost of the tower to actually get it up into a good resource becomes a pretty big hurdle.

"Wind complements PV" is primarily a reasonable approach off-grid. On-grid, it's generally wiser to look at your resources and sink your money into generating with the most reliable and abundant, be that sun, wind, or falling water. With net metering, there's little need to have your generating source producing evenly all year. You can actually make all of your energy in your sunny season, and lean on your credit with the utility in other seasons.

As far as the 11 m/s, I agree that it's too high for a rating, but it's important to be clear that this is an instantaneous wind speed, NOT an average. And really, _any_ instantaneous rating is pretty useless -- for comparison with PV, comparison with other machines, and for energy predictions. What's really needed is an energy rating at various average wind speeds, as shown in the article table. Then you can (with luck...) find the average wind speed at tower-top height on your site and get a prediction of the kilowatt-hours a given machine may provide.

You are wise to point out that the turbine cost is just one piece of the _system_ cost. Typically, it's a modest fraction, with tower and balance of systems (BOS) each costing more than the turbine in most cases. Potential wind energy users need good pricing on installed cost of all components together before deciding to go for it. And some will go for it regardless of the economics, just as we decide to buy a new Prius, or a Caribbean cruise, a few years in college, or a week on the Riviera. In all cases, it's wise to know the costs and the benefits.

Ian Woofenden, Home Power senior editor

Robert Dee_2's picture

Ian,
Well put, you know wind better than most of us.
I also know the 'lure' of wind, the darn thing looks so easy just spinning around up there! And there certainly is a joy factor. I'm not saying I won't invest in it, I probably will but I already have over 10kw of PV in and a stream for microhydro. The thing that scares me is that we have this monster called the API (American Petroleum Institute) doing everything they can to knock down alternate energy, which actually beats the pants off of every other energy source out there in the long run, and I want things on the table to keep the disappointment factor as low as possible. We need to be the most honest guys out there or we'll get hammered.
I just heard the other day that Germany made 74% of its power from alternate energy (Thank you Hermann Scheer... RIP) and India is pushing solar now. Great! Technology will win over and we have that on our side.
Keep up the good work!
Robert

David Bainbridge's picture

I installed a Kestrel turbine last year and you immediately notice the much higher quality design and attention to detail. I had an African Wind Power turbine that was also produced in Africa which pales in comparison to the Kestrel. The support is also top-notch. I've emailed and gotten response to my questions in a timely manner.

Ian Woofenden's picture

Glad to hear it, David! I've been well impressed with the Kestrels I've put my hands and wrenches on, but have never lived with one, though I'd like to.

Kestrel has the distinct advantage over African Wind Power that they have significant financial backing. The AWP was a good original design, but the company was a bit thin, as was the U.S. importer.

Small wind is a hard business to be in, and I applaud Kestrel for making what seem to be good products, and taking care of their customers.

Ian Woofenden, Home Power senior editor

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