Small Wind Initiative

For Western North Carolina
Intermediate

Inside this Article

Climbing a Wind Tower
Mike Dooraghi of the SWI team makes the long 120-foot climb up to the Jacobs for some maintenance.
Workshop Participants
Workshop participants on Beech Mountain at the Whisper 200 grid-tie installation.
Climbing a Wind Tower
Workshop Participants

The Appalachian Mountain region of North Carolina has more than three-quarters of a million acres of land with average annual wind speeds above 4.5 meters per second (10 mph) at 30 meters (98 ft.) height. But very little adoption of wind turbine technology has taken place. With the notable exception of the construction of what was then the world’s largest wind turbine in 1978, there has never been a tradition of using wind power in the region.

The Small Wind Initiative (SWI) was established in 2004 to demonstrate and assess small-scale wind turbine technology, to educate the public about the potential of small-scale wind energy production, and to assist people in measuring their wind resources. It has been supported by the North Carolina State Energy Office, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Appalachian State University, and several wind measurement and small wind turbine manufacturing companies.

SWI’s goal is to focus on small-scale wind energy with this project, because more than 80 percent of the windy land in this region is in the lower Class 2 and 3 range, which is not typically considered adequate for utility-scale projects. (Wind resources are classified on a scale from 1 to 7, with Class 7 being the highest.) Smaller turbines have less-significant impacts and will be less controversial than utility-scale wind farms.

Research & Demonstration Site

The central core of this initiative has been the establishment of a small-wind technology research and demonstration center on Beech Mountain in Avery County, western North Carolina. The center is at an elevation of 1,565 meters (5,136 ft.), with an average wind speed of about 8 meters per second (18 mph) at 50 meters (164 ft.), and an average annual power density of almost 600 watts per square meter. This makes it an outstanding wind site. The 3-acre site is being leased from a private landowner and a building permit has been issued to the project for seven years. The site includes two buildings for equipment storage and datalogging, good road access, and a utility grid connection.

The research and demonstration site has become the focal point for a variety of educational activities, including hands-on installation workshops. It is open to the public, and educational displays have been designed and constructed describing the potential of wind energy production in the region, the equipment used at the site, and the estimated performance and cost of each turbine.

The electricity from the turbines runs underground into a building that contains the power conditioning equipment, inverters, batteries, and datalogging equipment. All the electricity produced is being monitored and fed into the Mountain Electric/TVA utility grid system, contributing to TVA’s Green Power Switch program.

Turbines

Between June 2004 and June 2005, eight different wind turbines were erected and monitored at the site. Four companies’ turbines represent the range of products existing in the marketplace. The turbines at the site during 2005 included products from African Wind Power/Abundant Renewable Energy, Bergey Windpower Co., Southwest Windpower, and Wind Turbine Industries.

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