Wind energy offers tremendous advantages as one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world. There is a lot of debate on the effectiveness of wind turbines, especially arguments around small winds vs. big winds, so here are some of the key differences between small and big wind projects and some challenges that need to be addressed.
What is “Small Wind”?
In this case, the old saying of “bigger is better” does not apply when it comes to wind turbines. As the economic benefits of small wind power investments are higher, local ownership is encouraged and supported by the authorities.
A small wind is typically defined as a lower scale wind turbine that produces less than 100 kW of electricity and is created to be installed at homes and small farms, either as a source of backup electricity, or to reduce electricity costs.
At an average wind speed of about 14 – 22 kilometers per hour, some small wind turbines could generate between 60,000 – 170,000 kilowatt hours annually, which is enough power to sustain between 8 – 23 houses per year.
“Big Wind” Operations
As opposed to smaller wind power projects, the “big wind” operates on a larger scale with much bigger power plants. These usually cost millions of dollars and the developers certainly have financial gains in mind. The average large wind turbine stands between 60-80 m (or 195-260 ft) tall and generates about 2 megawatts of electricity. This capacity is about 20 times higher than the largest “small wind” turbine.
Big wind projects are developed to produce power for the grid. One of the challenges faced by developers is to actually get the power out and store it. The larger the wind power plants, the higher the investments in creating an infrastructure to get that electricity off the hills and into the grid, where it can be further distributed to consumers.
One of the major challenges in developing big wind farms is noise pollution. Although having relatively small impact on the environment, big wind has raised some concerns over the noise produced by the rotor blades, as well as the visual impact and the profitable use of the land.
One of the key pointers to consider when evaluating costs for a wind turbine for both residential and industrial use is the quality of the wind in that specific area. The average wind speed is critical when deciding to install a wind turbine because wind turbines need wind blowing to produce electricity and the turbine will perform in accordance with the average wind speed in that area.
A major benefit of developing smaller wind projects is that they help big wind plants overcome current market adoption barriers that will eventually lead to growth and lower energy costs. Plus, there are still millions of people all over the world living in remote rural communities where access to the national electricity grid is basically impossible. Therefore, the use of small wind turbines offers the unique opportunity of entering an untapped market without growing greenhouse gas emissions.
photo via www.noiseassess.co.uk