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Gaia-Wind at NREL 29 June 2009, Glasgow

June 29, 2009

According to the British Wind Energy association (BWEA), the domestic wind turbine market in the UK grew by 80 percent from 2006 to 2007 and that trend is set to continue. Improving technology is predicted to drive costs down so last month’s report issued by The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) makes interesting reading for everyone considering the renewable energy route.

NREL’s interim results of their Independent Testing Program for Small Wind Turbines that began last year featured four small wind turbines and included the Gaia-Wind 133-11kW. Tests are conducted at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) in Boulder, Colorado and accredited by the American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) for power performance, power quality, noise, safety and function, and duration to International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards.

Three of the five tests have been completed to date: safety and function, duration and power performance and the Gaia-Wind turbine met the pass requirements for all these tests. 

Significantly, in terms of estimated annual power production, it outperformed its nearest comparable peer by a factor of nearly 2 to 1.  This result further validates the value proposition that Gaia-Wind is the ‘best performing small wind turbine in moderate wind speeds’.

Based on an average wind speeds of 4.5 to 6.5 meters per second (which are the most common wind speeds for the UK and typically referred to as “moderate”), the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) have calculated for typical UK households that a £22,000 5kW model can typically produce 12,500 up to 13,000 kilowatt hours and realise a small surplus of electricity. By comparison however, for larger houses and applications such as farms, rural businesses and rural organisations, the figures for the larger Gaia-Wind 133-11 kW turbine – which has been installed at a farm stedding in Ayrshire, Scotland – are even more impressive and this is where the savings become much more interesting. Initial costs total around £45,000 but at an average wind speed of 6.5 meters per second the turbine will produce around 40,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year. Factoring in selling surplus energy, the BWEA calculate that the payback time could be as little as five years.

Rates of return vary from country to country but in the UK, at current energy prices, they could help reduce your payback significantly.

In summary, the smaller wind turbines are fine, but as Stephen Andrews, a Senior Technical Project worker at the UK’s Centre for Sustainable Energy says; “As soon as you move into a rural area, and as long as you have a good (wind) resource then small-scale wind turbines of up to 15 kilowatts are very good. They can have a payback of much less than 10 years.”

The most important thing to remember is location. If you are going to realise long-term cost and carbon savings then location has to be your priority. Your local meteorological bureau, can give you data on average wind speeds in your area. If you want to check the wind speeds in a specific location in further detail, an anemometer will tell you all you need to know.

“At the right locations,” say the BWEA, “small wind systems can produce electricity cheaper than the grid and payback their embedded carbon within a year.”
Rural settings generally represent the best opportunities for small turbines. A recent report published in the UK by the Carbon Trust also concluded that turbines in rural locations were four times more efficient than their urban cousins. Typically the best applications are working farms, large rural houses, light industrial and rural businesses or community organizations.

Whilst the larger of the small turbines are more expensive they can, in the right location, make an even greater difference and in the long-term could be an extremely astute financial and environmental investment.

“The recent findings relating to our 11Kw small wind turbine are very helpful to prospective customers and particularly land owners, farmers and those living in rural areas which is where our main customers are found.” Says Johnnie Andringa, Managing Director of Gaia-Wind. “Because our turbines are developed and manufactured in Denmark they incorporate more than 20 years of Danish wind industry design expertise and incorporate features only found on much larger turbines including; direct grid connection, triple safety system and an advanced turbine controller providing unsurpassed safety and monitoring control ”

Johnnie continues; “ Our experience, which the recent NREL independent tests point to, is that the turbine’s wind capture area (or swept area), contributes more to energy production performance than any other single factor. The most efficient payback for customers is for those who are able to use the majority of the energy on site spending more than £3,000 per annum on electricity consumption.”

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