Need for Renewable Energy – Consider Wind!

  • Posted: Mar 20, 2009
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Need for Renewable Energy – Consider Wind!

We know that in South Africa our electricity is heavily subsidized, something that will, according to all indications, change drastically over the next five years.  This, along with a need to live a more sustainable lifestyle has made it important to consider alternative energy solutions, which will make us less dependent of the Eskom grid which mostly makes use of fossil or nuclear energy.

A solution to our energy dilemma is renewable energy, that is using natural elements such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat to generate energy.

This type of energy emits less greenhouse gases essentially slowing down global warming.  In a country like ours renewable energy is an excellent solution as these resources are naturally and readily available.  South Africa has, for example, a 220 watts per square metres 24 hour global solar radiation, while in America it is 150 watts and in Europe only110 watts.

Considering alternative energy solutions is however not the responsibility of government, industry or large corporations only, as homeowners we can also do our bit to quit our grid dependency.

Alternative solutions to consider are solar energy (Photovoltaic Panels (PV), solar water heating and wind energy.

Going green with your home energy should however be phased and systematic approach.  You could just go cold turkey on the grid, but this is sure to cost you a fair whack, not something that is within the financial reach of your average homeowners.  If you are building a new home though a totally different story, maybe material for a next blog.  The totally independent route as mentioned is pricy and might not make financial sense, it could take you between 10 and 20 years to pay back your capital investment.

Most experts agree that your best energy saving solution lies in a hybrid system, using more than one of the above alternatives to supplement your grid power.  And if you are a hardcore greeny (really dark green) you can use your hybrid system to gradually wean yourself off grid power.

Let’s take a look at the different solutions:

Solar (PV Panels)

This is the generation of electricity from the energy of the sun by using photovoltaic (pv) panels.  Find out more.

Solar Water Heating (SWH)

Solar

Solar

Solar water heating (SWH) panels do not produce electricity it only creates hot water.  This is definitely the most common system and arguably the perfect energy-saving device for South African homeowners.  Especially when you consider that 49% of an average household’ electricity usage goes to heating and cooling. This is also the system identified by Eskom as the sustainable solution and they will now give you a rebate when installing a SWH system by an approved supplier.  Find out more.

Wind power

Wind energy is one of the fastest growing solutions in the world, as wind is a clean and effective way to generate electricity.  Considering South Africa’s good wind density it is surprising that this is one of the least considered options when looking at alternative energy solutions.

These systems are annually becoming more affordable and really are coming into its own as a sustainable solution, not only in the rural community but also in urban South Africa.

Wind

Wind

You could build your own wind turbine or install a professionally manufactured system yourself (should you have the necessary electrical knowledge) or alternatively you could contact a reliable supplier to do this for you.  The process (roughly); they will visit you, do an energy audit and suggest the solution that will best suite your needs.  Manufacturers of wind turbines; Kestrel and GWStore

Tip:  If you are considering this option, invest in a good system it makes perfect economic and environmental sense.  Also, when installing a wind turbine you have to get council approval remember to also consult with your neighbours before installation.

Energy

Solar / Wind

How does it work?

The rotating blades (usually 3) converts the winds kinetic energy into rotational momentum in a shaft.  The rotating shaft turn an alternator, which makes electricity. The electricity is then transmitted into either your grid electricity or into a battery unit.

Noise pollution?  Minimal all you hear is the swooshing sounds of the turning blades.

Goodness of wind power:

Using a 1MW wind turbine to produce electricity instead of burning coal will leave 900 000 kilograms of coal in the ground and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2 260 tones.  This has the same positive impact as taking over 410 cars off the road or planting 10 000 trees.

Research that will benefit our future:

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University is currently conducting a study on a hybrid systems, using solar panels and a wind turbine.  Read more.  What’s interesting about these studies is their investigation into a “feed-in” system, this is when the excess energy your renewable energy sources creates are fed back into the grid, through a special feed-in meter.  What this means?  That in the future you could sell your excess energy back to Eskom at a so called “green-feed-in tariff”.

Now that is a future to look forward to!

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