Book Review: POWER FROM THE WIND, a practical guide to small-scale energy production

Power From the Wind, a practical guide to small-scale energy productionTired of your increasing electric bills?  Want to change your relationship with energy, making your own, renewable, local power while doing your part to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and lessening the impacts of climate change?

Read no further than Power from the Wind: A practical guide to small-scale energy production (New Society), by prolific writer and sustainable living practitioner Dan Chiras, with contributions by Mick Sagrillo and Ian Woofenden.  This book helps you assess your energy needs, your site’s wind energy potential, and sort out every aspect of the design, purchase and installation of a small-scale, or residential, wind system.  Amazingly, it does so without demanding that you be some technical tinkerer or electrical engineer.

A big part of sustainability is being able to meet some or all of your energy needs, yourself, with renewable energy if you’re fortunate enough to live in a place where it’s windy.  The timing couldn’t be better for the release of their authoritative book as millions of dollars in state and federal funding support or tax incentives are being made available for homeowners and businesses to install such systems.

Power from the Wind covers every aspect of small-scale wind energy systems, from an initial site assessment to wind turbine towers, from inverters to batteries, should an owner decide to create an off-grid or grid-intertied system with a battery backup.  For those of us who learned about nuclear power in school but nothing about wind turbines, here’s a simple explanation of how wind turbines work, with a brief history of the industry.  The bulk of the book, however, arms a homeowner or business owner with the know-how to evaluate whether or not installing your own wind turbine system makes sense.  Investment costs provided in Power from the Wind are not vague estimates.  They’re based on real world averages of completed and installed systems throughout the country.

Power from the Wind is not a fluffy book on the subject.  It includes charts, numbers, electrical diagrams and even a few formulas. But it’s not a highly technical or complicated read either.  Power from the Wind is a synthesis of a vast sea of information, resources and research easily understood by a layperson – a hallmark of books written by Chiras.  There are plenty of pros and cons on various wind system issues, like the latest research on bird kills; just for the record, number one reason for bird kills remain the windows in our homes.

As owners of a 10kW Bergey wind turbine ourselves, we appreciate the detail and comprehensiveness of Power from the Wind; wish we had it before we put up our turbine in 2003.  Dan Chiras recognized that by pulling in two seasoned experts on small-scale wind systems, Mick Sagrillo and Ian Woofenden, the book became more diverse and balanced in perspectives.  As a result, the advice and perspectives that seep into the text are based on real world examples, not academic hypotheticals or governmental “wishful projections.”

Several years ago I worked with Woofenden on an article related to our system on our farm for a HomePower magazine, the leading national magazine about renewable energy for which he’s the wind electricity editor.  Sagrillo, without a doubt our nation’s most experienced small-scale wind installer, shepherded the completion of our 10kW wind system with a bunch of students as a part of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s renewable energy hands-on workshop series.  First hand, I witnessed how knowledge applied to energy could result in greater independence from fossil fuels today.  These guys know their stuff and with clarity and conciseness, it’s covered in the pages of Power from the Wind.

With the average cost of a 10kW small-scale wind turbine on a 100-foot tower in the range of $45,000 to $60,000 (before state and federal incentives), pouring through the pages of Power from the Wind make this book a wise first investment. You need to know what you’re getting into.

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