Kite Powered Ships?

Who would have thought that sailing ships would come back into style? I mean, isn’t that how the first ships were powered? Yes, wind and human power at the oars. However the Sky Sails company has taken sailing to a new level. They use a kite, which is actually a sort of wing, that is tethered to the ship. The kite is flown up to 300 meters above the ship, a place where the winds are stronger and more reliable. They’ve been doing some test runs and fuel savings are better than 10% when compared to normal operations and are on the way to 20% or more. That’s better than $1000 per day for a 10,000 ton ship. Mucho dinero as my Spanish speaking friends would say.

Check out this video for some good footage of the system in action: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=QUyetrs3MQ0&feature=related.

Thus, there are smart people doing great things out there to protect the environment and make money at the same time. Best thing we can do is let them continue their good work unmolested.

Island Energy Production

So in the last post, I said I needed to DELIVER 7,000 watts of power to keep my airco system working here in Aruba. The next logical question is how am I going to produce electricity in the first place. Well, here in Aruba we have copious supplies of both wind and sun. The trade winds blow across this island day and night, month after month, we few exceptions. My own observations show that the average wind speed on my property is in excess of 24 mph. As for the sun, it blazes at least 8 hours a day. Cloudy and rainy days do occur but not very often and rarely several in a row.

So, how do we get the wind to make electricity? With one of these:

To the left is a Southwest Wind Power, Whisper 200, wind turbine. More commonly referred to as a “windmill.” The unit produces a maximum of 1,000 watts of power when a steady breeze of 27 mph is passing through its blades. But wait a minute, I said my average speed is only 24 mph. That’s right and at 24 mph this unit produces 800 watts. To keep it simple, this wind turbine could (theoretically) power an electrical device requiring 800 watts of power given  the conditions I described.

In the real world, things are a bit different. Here’s where we all have to concentrate. Let’s say that at my house the wind blows at 24mph for 10 hours each day. That means the windmill would produce 800 watts times 10 hours for a total of 8,000 watts. What can 8,000 watts do? It could run that big airco of mine for a little more than 2 hours. Now, my on-site observations show that the wind blows MORE than 24 mph for approximately 20 hours per day (yes, it is that windy in Aruba). So, I can reasonably expect this unit to deliver 16,000 watts per day to the system.

I did mention something about the sun. The example is much the same with different equipment. A solar panel like the one on the left does the job. Yeah, it’s one of those sort of shiny blue things that typically goes on the roof. My system will use 200 watt panels. Each one will produce 200 watts if operating at its maximum. I’m going to string 5 of them together to have the potential for 1,000 watts. Again, I’m going to de-rate the output to 800 watts and I’m going to say that it will produce that much 7 hours per day for a total of 5,600 watts per day.

Now it is time to combine these two sources. Together, I’m expecting them to produce a total of 21,500 watts per day. Let’s round DOWN again, to 21,000. Finally we get to the fun part. What can I do with the 21,000 watts and those airco units? Just divide the production by the demand. I could run them both for 3 hours since they require 7,000 watts together. I could run the larger one for about 6.5 hours, or the smaller one 7 hours, or some combination of both. Since I rounded demand UP and production DOWN, I should have some room to maneuver here.

Either way, I’m satisfied that this method of production will give me what I want, which is to run those air conditioners long enough to keep my cat, my wife, and myself comfortable here in Aruba. Next time I’ll talk about combining this power into a manageable form. In between, we’ll have some more fun on the island, writing books, and taking photos.

Island Energy (Demand) Calculations

We’ve been having fun, traipsing around Aruba, looking at beaches, checking out the sights, dining at all kinds of restaurants. However, having a house here is like having a house most anywhere else in the sense that utilities are a serious issue. The cost of electricity in Aruba is quite high because they burn oil to make it. (I’m not going to get into the politics of this just now. Suffice it to say that I believe in private solutions.)

My original goal for the house was to power the air conditioning system off the grid. Thus, the question, “How much power do I need to produce to get those airco’s off the grid?” The answer follows:

Last year, I installed two brand new split-type air-conditioners. The larger one uses 14.4 amps of power at 220 volts which means approximately 3168 watts. The smaller one uses 12.6 amps at 220 volts, consuming 2772 watts. Add those two together and you end up with at least 5,940 watts. When it comes to power use, I like to round UP. Therefore, at a minimum, I need to produce 6,000 watts of electricity to run both air conditioners at the same time. But wait a minute! When you first turn the airco on, it draws a bit more power to get started. So, let’s set the minimum at 7,000 watts. To correct myself slightly, I need to DELIVER that many watts to keep these unit cranking.

Okay, how am I going to do this? Production will come from a wind turbine and solar panels (photovoltaic). This power will have to be converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). How is that going to be done? With an INVERTER. What if the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining? Electricity will be stored in a BATTERY BANK. How is the battery bank going to be charged? Through the inverter and a CHARGE CONTROLLER.

Are you still with me? I hope so. None of this is as complicated as it sounds and there are some details that aren’t discussed here. (Please, if i made any mistakes, let me know so I can correct them.) You can purchase entire systems that are basically “plug and play.” A qualified electrician can have you up and running in no time.

Now, the next post is going to look at ENERGY PRODUCTION for this system. There will be pictures, too. Remember one thing: Once the system is operating, you get a return on your investment and protection against future price increases. Every time the price of energy goes up, it’s as if you’re saving more. And you are because you have a fixed cost for your system and a little extra for the maintenance.

Enough for now. Stay tuned. And don’t forget that you can control your energy consumption AND production. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. You have to be willing to change a little or a lot depending on your goals. However, you do not have to live in a cave, eating berries.

Wind Power

With the price of oil what it is today, there are all kinds of people talking about alternative energy. In Spain there are windmills all over the place. The ones in the photo below happen to be the modern kind that make electricity but there are also the old ones that mill grain or pump water.

These magnificent machines go a long way to provide for Spain’s electricity needs. The amazing part is they make very little noise. From where I was standing in this photo, you could barely hear them. At another location, there were literally hundreds of windmills and barely a sound came from them. I thought this can’t be true; they have to make noise. I spoke with an engineer who specializes in windmills and he explained that the windmills are not “loud” per se. He added that the ambient noise produced by the wind itself also disguises the noise of the machine.

At the time of this writing, there are no commercial sized windmills on my beloved island of Aruba. This is unbelievable given that the trade winds, the prevailing westerly of yore, blow across the island day in and day out. There are very few times in Aruba when the wind is not blowing with enough force to turn a giant windmill. Naturally, energy prices on the island have gone into the stratosphere with the price of oil. A string of large windmills would go a long way to alleviate this problem, not to mention how it would help the environment. Similarly, it would benefit the Aruban economy by reducing the cost of energy, giving the island a competitive edge against less fortunate locales. I’ll be doing some politicking to bring this issue to the fore with my friends on the island. It makes economic sense, is good for the planet, and won’t hurt a bit. Why delay?

I decided not to delay by having a system designed for my home there. It incorporates a 1kW turbine and an 800 watt solar array. This is not very much generating capacity. However, given the constant winds and reliable sunshine it will produce enough power to generate more than 75% of my energy needs. From January through April it will most likely supply 100%. There is a battery bank which keeps the power on during times of low wind and/or sun. I’m working on a deal with my neighbor to use the power when I’m not there, which will make the system that much more affordable for both of us. As soon as these pieces are in place I’ll ship the parts to the island and start getting a nice return on the investment.

Published in: on June 16, 2008 at 12:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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