May 25, 2008 – Skystream Summary

Doesn’t she look good up in the air? I’ll try to use this post to summarize some of the most-commonly asked questions about the Skystream. It is on a 70 foot tower (although they are commonly mounted on 35 foot towers in more crowded locations).

The machine is connected to the utility grid so excess power goes back to the grid (for example, on a windy night when our home load is low). The grid intertie leads to a couple of things people don’t immediately think about – when the grid goes down (when power goes off) so does the turbine. Like a generator, you don’t want current going back down the lines when linemen may be out repairing the lines. Nor does this unit have batteries. If you were in a remote location, far from the grid, that may be an option, but the batteries add substantially to the cost and only last about 10 years, so that configuration is not nearly as “green” as the straight grid intertie.

The unit recently had a software upgrade that changed the top speed before automatic shoutdown from 27 mph in the old one to 30 mph in the new one. It may seem like a small difference, but each time a gust goes above the upper limit, it turns off for 15 minutes before retesting the wind. So, if there’s a 25 mph wind blowing, a 29 mph gust won’t stop it and there is so much more power in the higher wind speeds that the latest upgrade has improved some installations by 20%

There’s also an optional RF USB device that you can plug into your computer and get a read-out of all the data coming out of the turbine. Eventually, the company would like to get this info via an internet connection where they could troubleshoot many potential problems without lowering the tower. Those units have recently been upgraded and the installer wants to wait a bit before I consider getting one to make sure all the bugs are out first. I do find myself going out quite often to look at it and the last few days have been very windy and it has been too windy numerous times.

One thing that struck me is that in a strange way it makes me much more conscious of my energy use – It’s fun those times the household load is lower than the turbine production and electricity goes out into the grid. Like the Prius drivers in the mpg drive challenges, it makes you look closer at the electricity you do use. And it is a treat to know that sometimes the computer is being powered by 100% clean and quiet wind power!

So in a way, I do get more enjoyment than the simple economic payback the turbine provides. I like that what used to be a monthly hole (paying the electric bill) now goes towards paying for a capital asset. Anytime you can convert a monthly payment into building equity (in this case, future “free energy”) it’s good for the long term.

I like the way it looks when you drive up the road to the farm. Like may things, I imagine the first few that go up, people think you might be a bit crazy – but after 5, 10, or 15 go up, then people start wonder what they are missing out on! We’re the third one in our county, so we’re on the way.

Today’s drudge job was piling the excavated soil back on top of the trench. Anytime you move wet soil by hand, it isn’t a fun thing, but in today’s heat and humidity (85 degrees, dew point in the low 70’s) it was less fun, but since there is a tornado watch and flood watch out for tonight, I thought it would never be easier or better than now.

one year ago…”Cute Chick”