Archive for November, 2012

An elegant solution for a problem during extreme weather events — small wind turbines

It’s just an idea. A great deal of small wind turbine generators can withstand  Category 1 hurricane wind speeds. [Citation: Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale]

There are, however, some small wind turbine generators installed on the Boston-Cambridge Museum of Science back in 2009 that have survival wind speeds of up to 155+mph (Category 4):

  • Mariah Power Windspire – survival wind speed – 105 mph | 47 m/s (Falls w/in the Category 2 range)
  • Cascade Engineering Swift – maximum designed wind speed – 145 mph | 64.8 m/s (Falls w/in the Category 4 range)
  • AeroVironment AVX1000 – designed to withstand 120 mph winds — good for low-aspect ratio structures (Falls w/in the Category 3 range)
  • The Proven 6 – cut-out wind speed –  >155 mph | >70 metres/second (Falls w/in the Category 4+ range)
  • Southwest Windpower SkyStream 3.7 – survival wind speed – 140 mph | 63 m/s  (Falls w/in the Category 4 range)

I wondered how they faired during Hurricane Sandy? Yes, I have made an enquiry and am awaiting a reply.

Hurricane Sandy caused some hospitals in NYC to evacuate patients, because their diesel gensets ran out of fuel. This should have NEVER happened if the hospital administrators planned better for contingencies.

Perhaps if they had had some properly designed and sited small wind turbines and PV arrays, er hybrid renewable energy systems, installed on the rooftops, coupled with back up batteries to capitalize on the indifferent forces of Mother Nature, there would not have been a need to relocate all those patients. Of course, I am not sure if this would be a pragmatic solution, since this is all contingent on the extent of the load requirements and if the wind turbines can withstand hurricane force wind. In general, I think generating electricity closer to where it will be used is a way to go, and smaller hybrid renewable energy systems is better–especially systems that can be deployed quickly and disassembled quickly.

I rather like one of my colleague’s designs, the AVX-1000, that is best sited on low aspect ratio buildings to capture the chimney effect of wind coming up the side of a building. When it’s not ‘hurricane season’ these stylish machines, should not draw as much ire from NIMBYs.

In a disaster scenario, I think implementing wind turbine generators (WTGs) is particularly elegant way to go–this turns a problem into a solution. Sure, perhaps in most locations in a city, small WTGs are not pragmatic because of all the roughness. This, however, could be the exact reason why small WTGs in the built environment can be added to the equation. When power is lost, wind is a direct or indirect cause, so there is plenty of energy for the taking, sun or no sun…

If I get a ‘moment’, or as soon as I can obtain all the pertinent data I require, I’ll post up a cost-comparison analysis of what it would cost to install a small, hybrid renewable energy system on these hospitals and compare this to a guestimated cost of what was spent to evacuate and relocate the ~1,000 patients from NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital Center during Hurricane Sandy. Ja, I’m a hope addict…


Just how well did RE systems fair during Hurricane Sandy?

As much as I would like to believe renewable energy technologies faired better than conventional power plants during Hurricane Sandy, my sentiments are guarded. On a technology sector web site to which I subscribed, there was a prudent question raised, “What happens when we have two disasters at once?” Or for that matter, what happens if there are more than three, four, … disasters?

Hurricane Sandy Uncovers Strength and Simplicity of Renewable Energy Systems

As much as  this Hope Addict  would like to think larger, static renewable energy systems will fair better than traditional power plants, I can’t help but think they too will be compromised after natural disasters–but to what extent, this remains to be seen. I think because the solar technologies have a faster innovation cycle, measures for decommissioning and recommissioning during disaster events, as well as deploying more distributed generation hybrid micro-/nano-grid systems that are smaller and more modular should be looked at where future contingency criteria and planning is concerned.

As I stated in a previous post, we cannot overlook the indifference and indisputable bidding of Mother Nature that will certainly continue to dictate. I accept what this will ultimately be. But the wise choice is to be prepared, adapt and control or eliminate whatever human actions, that we know beyond a reasonable doubt, are affecting the change that will ultimately ‘inconvenience’ many. We also need to acknowledge that the Earth and all its subsystems is a highly dynamic and changing place, and not to be controlled, but rather respected. Hopefully, the language of systemic causation will feature the operatives climate instability into the discussion more prominently.


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What is a Hybrid RE Engineer?

An engineering generalist with an understanding of sustainable development whose skills set are typically comprised of an amalgam of mechanical and electrical engineering. One who is able to design and assemble systems and components that are comprised of more than one renewable energy (RE) technology i.e. solar, wind, hydro-kinetic (ocean/wave/micro-hydro), biomass, hydrogen fuel cell, geothermal and storage (battery, fly wheel, pumped-hydro). The RE technologies selected depend on one's geographical predisposition, resource availability, the end-use need, practicing conservation (behavioral change) to name a few considerations...

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