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Engineering News | Small Wind Turbines in Your Backyard

November 9th, 2012

When one thinks of the traditional wind turbines for wind energy production, the image includes a towering massive structure, taller than the downtown skyscrapers. It has been essential to put these gigantic turbines in areas with much open space, in order to maximize the output in relation to the set up costs.

Up until now, vast stretches of rural farmland or urban wastelands have housed windmills, with sometimes hundreds of them placed creating turbine farms. The owners of these areas receive great incentives and rebates from the government for their efforts.

Now, several companies have created smaller turbines that could possibly even fit in our backyards. These turbines could work to power homes, farms and smaller businesses. The Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) has approved two small wind turbines with more approvals coming.

The national certification process will generate sales of more of these turbines because now an everyday homeowner will be able to receive the same rebates and financial incentives as those wind turbine farmers. And whereas an older style large windmill cost over $60,000 to install, the investment in a smaller turbine will be more accessible to many.

In order to get certified the SWCC has to review the engineering design. The council looks at the mechanical engineering of the aerodynamics of the blades, and tests them in extreme conditions. These structures need to hold up after many years of pounding winds and weather, which can lead to corrosion.

The first two models to be certified are the Bergey Windpower Excel 10 and the Southwest Windpower Skystream 3.7. The Bergey has been around since the 1980s, and has endured much testing, so it was not difficult to provide certification for this wind turbine.

In order to test the turbines, much attention needs to be paid to the mechanical engineering simulations. The tests being done for the larger blades can also benefit the smaller turbine creators. The National Science Foundation has funded research including a virtual test environment where turbines can be tested through real, extreme weather condition simulations. These are looked at through a high-performance supercomputer platform.

This research will be essential in determining the design challenges for the next generation of these impactful turbines.

Contact The Talley Group for the latest positions in mechanical engineering and wind turbine technologies.

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