Homeowners installing small wind turbines in Wyoming may not be saving as much energy as they might think, according to the latest University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service bulletin, B-1207, The Effect of Altitude on Small Wind Turbine Power Production.
The bulletin points out flaws in typical production estimates and provides a more effective estimating means. It is available online at http://ces.uwyo.edu/PUBS/B1207.pdf.
Simple production estimation methods rely on assumptions for sea level, but the lowest elevation in Wyoming is 3,099 feet. Air density decreases as altitude increases, lowering power production estimates and decreasing the economic effectiveness of the turbine.
The predicted annual energy output at 3,500 feet is 10-percent lower than at sea level and is almost 20-percent lower at 7,000 feet. These lower production estimates lead to lower energy savings.
The bulletin authors note that knowing the amount of power in their wind source is important for high-altitude homeowners to make the most informed decision about a small wind turbine being the right energy source.