Wind Turbines: If It Looks Good…

Mick Sagrillo writes in Solar Today about the plethora of “revolutionary” wind turbines being hyped out there, which look wa-a-y cooler than conventional wind generators. The enthusiastic developers imagine that these designs are not only good looking, but also will generate all the energy you need.

Sagrillo, handicapped by actually knowing what he is talking about, is distressed by the ignorance of these pitches [2]. As he says,

“Don’t you think that before one thinks outside the box, one ought to at least know what’s inside the box? And why is it in there?” (p. 55)

Grump, grump, grump.

As he points out, wind energy is pretty well understood, and is based on the unforgiving physics of fluid dynamics. Like gravity, these rules are not just a good idea, they are the law.

The big variables are in the site, how high off the ground, and the size of the turbine. Most alternative turbine designs (assuming they work at all) are roughly equivalent, and the difference are tiny compared to the effects of, say how high the turbine is, and whether trees are nearby. (And, by the way, don’t forget that there is a bit of work to connect it to anything useful.)

If you are really interested in getting usable wind power, then you need to use well designed turbines (Sagrillo points to this reference from Interstate Turbine Advisory Council (ITAC)).

I think Mr. Sagrillo is a bit too harsh when he says, “If you must buy a “spinny thing”, buy a whirly gig at a craft fair.” (p. 55). Ouch!  Harsh!  Not everyone is interested in wind power solely for the power.

If we want something that looks like part of a Ray Gun Emplacement left behind by Emperor Ming of Mongo, why not? Why not a cool looking “spinny thing” that generates a little electricity? If it gives you pleasure, go ahead.

But please don’t be fooled into paying absurd amounts of money on the hope you will recoup it from the energy produced.

Several cool looking small wind turbines. Not necessarily recommended.
Several cool looking small wind turbines. Not necessarily recommended.

  1. Interstate Turbine Advisory Council (ITAC). ITAC Unified List of Wind Turbines. 2016,
  2. Mick Sagrillo,  (2016) “Wind Doesn’t Work” (or Does It?). Solar Today, 54-55


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