One- to 10-kW turbines can be used in applications such as pumping water. Wind energy has been used for centuries to pump water and grind grain. Although mechanical windmills still provide a sensible, low-cost option for pumping water in low-wind areas, farmers and ranchers are finding that wind-electric pumping is more versatile and they can pump twice the volume for the same initial investment. In addition, mechanical windmills must be placed directly above the well, which may not take advantage of available wind resources. Wind-electric pumping systems can be placed where the wind resource is the best and connected to the pump motor with an electric cable. However, in areas with a low wind resource, mechanical windmills can provide more efficient water pumping.
“The vision of the project is to make PV systems similar to an appliance, something that can be installed quickly, easily and safely, even by someone with no prior PV installation experience,” says Jacquie Ashmore, CSE engineering program manager. “If you buy a washing machine, you don’t buy 18 different components and assemble it yourself. You buy one big appliance and have it installed by a contractor or hook it up yourself.”
For simple installations such as solar garden lighting or heating your swimming pool with the power of the sun, there are viable, effective, and affordable DIY options on the market. However, with larger projects, such as whole-house solar, the process requires quite a bit of knowledge of electrical systems. Here are a few things to consider before going forward with your DIY solar project.
Net metering / net billing—For electric customers who generate their own electricity, net metering allows for the flow of electricity both to and from the customer. When a customer's generation exceeds the customer's use, electricity from the customer flows back to the grid, offsetting electricity consumed by the customer at a different time during the same billing cycle. In effect, the customer uses excess generation to offset electricity that the customer otherwise would have to purchase at the utility's full retail rate. Net metering is required by law in most U.S. states, but state policies vary widely. See also behind-the-meter.*
System Considerations -- Be sure to leave enough room to raise and lower the tower for maintenance. If your tower is guyed, you must allow room for the guy wires. Whether the system is stand-alone or grid-connected, you also will need to take the length of the wire run between the turbine and the load (house, batteries, water pumps, etc.) into consideration. A substantial amount of electricity can be lost as a result of the wire resistance—the longer the wire run, the more electricity is lost. Using more or larger wire will also increase your installation cost. Your wire run losses are greater when you have direct current (DC) instead of alternating current (AC). If you have a long wire run, it is advisable to invert DC to AC.
Turbulence intensity—A basic measure of turbulence that is defined by the ratio of the standard deviation of the wind speed to the mean wind speed. For wind energy applications this is typically defined as a 10-minute average wind speed and standard deviation based on 1-second samples. Turbulence intensity is important for wind energy applications because it has implications for both power performance and turbine loading. Experience indicates that it can be a significant issue for small turbines because of their tower height and location around ground clutter, which puts them in the most turbulent area of the atmospheric boundary layer. The effects of turbulence on distributed wind turbines can be seen in both power production and loading
For our review we have focused on 100W and 400W panel kits, which are most applicable to the RV/boating or small outbuilding applications that have smaller loads, but have also included advice on the best resources and options for large systems (3kWh – 5 kWh – Skip to section on larger systems). Most of the solar kits are also easily configurable to add additional panels as needed. If you are interested in solar panels for a boat, read our review of options as there are several flexible solar panels to consider.
There are two primary technologies that can harness the sun’s power and turn it into electricity. The first is the one you’re likely most familiar with – photovoltaics, or PV. These are the panels you’ve seen on rooftops or in fields. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, photons from the sunlight are absorbed by the cells in the panel, which creates an electric field across the layers and causes electricity to flow. Learn more about how PV works.
Customer charges can take a variety of forms, including interconnection charges, metering charges, and standby charges. You should not hesitate to question any charges that seem inappropriate to you. Federal law (Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, or PURPA, Section 210) prohibits utilities from assessing discriminatory charges to customers who have their own generation facilities.
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