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Turbine efficiency: What do you need to know?

The point of owning and operating a domestic sized wind turbine system is to generate electricity for whatever reason, be that domestic use, profit or generation for industrial purposes. Overall electricity generation of a wind turbine system depends on many different factors, many of which can be influenced by internal and external factors of the system itself or where the system is placed. This is to say, it matters not only what power rating your turbine has, but how efficient that turbine is at extracting the energy from the wind and converting it to electrical energy at the point of consumption. As an example, a 5kW generator in a turbine could, due to inefficiencies in the system, only generate 500W of power due to energy losses in the system if managed improperly. It is therefore important to characterise and understand the different causes of inefficiency and how they might be combatted.


How to get the most from the wind

We will start from the perspective of the wind and work our way through each of the inefficiencies until we get to the electricity used to charge the batteries in your home. Unfortunately you can't control what the wind is doing at all times so we unfortunately can't do much about its condition. It is worth noting, however, that, generally, the more laminar the flow of the wind is (a scientific name for a smooth flow of air) the higher the efficiency of the conversion of the wind's kinetic energy to the rotational kinetic energy of the wind turbine blades.




Turbulent flow is the opposite. This is when the air is chaotic and swirls around unpredictability. Local points within the flow of the wind can be pushing the wind backwards or sideways causing inconsistent forces applied to the turbine blades. The limited control that you do have over the wind that interacts with your turbine is how the environment around the turbine affects the flow conditions. Obstructions to the flow such as trees, buildings or other wind turbines will cause an increase in turbulent flow reaching the turbine. Hence when installing your turbine you should try to put it in a nice open area with minimal obstructions nearby.