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Old 18-07-2014, 17:43   #1
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Are Wind Generators even worth it?

Boat came with an old AirX and an even older Wind Bugger. The Wind Bugger had a bent blade tip, and was noisy. But it broke off and fell into the Atlantic, leaving us with the AirX. It was on the boat when we got hit by lightning, which affected just about every active 12 volt system on board. The AirX is noisy. There are notches on the leading edges. Now it's no longer braking when I short the leads together. I suspect the regulator is gone in it, although it still puts out voltages that I would assume are wind proportional. So, A new set of blades and a regulator...or even an external regulator, and I'm looking at a few hundred bucks. I have "700" or so supposed/rated/maybe watts of solar and room for more. I'm thinking of ditching the AirX and that noisy spinning thing that worries me near tall pilings. What would you do? Put your money into obsolete AirX parts, or buy another couple hundred watts of solar? I've been thinking of playing with some of that flexible stuff to kind of get familiar with it, too.
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Old 18-07-2014, 17:48   #2
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

My paradigm is that wind is good for higher latitudes and solar is better for tropics.

Wind works 24/7 solar works 6-8 hours a day.

How much solar (to me) is often an aesthetic choice. I think boats with solar hanging all over every rail and the bimini look like crap.

Both can be part of the total solution.
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Old 18-07-2014, 17:52   #3
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

I can't answer your question but in case you didn't know, Primus Wind Power has purchased the AirX line of wind turbines. I have read that they have much quieter blades available.

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Old 18-07-2014, 18:10   #4
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

If I had to guess, I would say we see more windgens on boats than solar (proper solar - not counting a single 35-50W panel that every boat seems to hang out). Maybe it is 50-50.

However, when talking to people, I hear a different story than that ratio would suggest.

Nobody really likes anchoring in full and constant 20-25kt winds, where windgens seem to do their best work. In fact, most pick anchorages where they can hide from the wind. Now, their windgen is providing an amp or two - which is good over 24hrs, but less than the same amount of money would provide if sunk into solar.

When I ask about typical or daily output of windgens, the owners always hem and haw and make vague generalizations. However, if the anchorages experience a prolonged blow, these same people are telling everyone who will listen how much power they are getting.

But it does come down to what one can mount. A solar farm takes space that many boats don't have - so more solar is out and a windgen fills some of that gap.

If you have space, I think solar will provide more useable power consistently than a windgen. Even if you are in windy areas like the tradewinds.

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Old 18-07-2014, 18:11   #5
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

IMO wind turbines are one leg of a boats three legged energy stool. I have 48 volt Air-X and like it a lot. My experience with their customer service regarding some paint peeling just before the warranty expired was excellent. Most of the day it is stopped as my solar panels keep my batteries topped up. But, where I really came to appreciate it was when riding at anchor as the fringes of Hurricane Earl approached. Nice to be able harvest some energy from the storm winds and not have to fire up the generator. Solar panels where useless until the sun returned. Other than the minor paint peeling it has been operating seven years without a problem.
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Old 18-07-2014, 18:16   #6
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pirate Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

I have reworked my Airx. It's much quieter now but doesn't really seem to produce much. I saw 17 amps once momentarily but it's generally 5 or less here on the east coast of NC. It won't keep up with the frig.
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Old 18-07-2014, 18:20   #7
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

The noise of a wind gen is a red herring. Kind of like the nose of a generator.

When my brother doesn't need the amps he stops the windgen and ties it off. When he needs the amps he's not complaining about noise...
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Old 18-07-2014, 18:21   #8
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

Canibul,

We have solar and wind, too, an older, noisy AireX. On passages is when it really helps a lot. Our autopilot draws 2 amps at idle, and more when it's working, so it's a huge load. When we have enough breeze, we don't have to run the engine in the middle of the night to charge the batteries. In winter, when the solaring day is short, we look for breezy anchorages to keep the batteries topped up. We think of its noise (blades and bearing noise) as the sound of cold beer happening. I also love my solar panels. On our mono, they are mounted on a radar arch, and provide shade as well as charging the batteries.

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Old 18-07-2014, 18:25   #9
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

I'd keep the wind generator if you wish to minimize engine driven battery charging. On the sail to Hawaii went more than 10 days under heavy overcast. Even with minimal electrical usage, no refrigeration or auto pilot, the batteries were down to 12 volts. Have 270 watts of solar panel charging the batteries. Even though I had light winds, at least light for that passage, would have picked up some charge from the wind gen and not run the batteries down as far as I did. If the passage would have been anything else but DDW, would have added significant amps. If you are sailing other than the tropics, would expect that you'd get as much power or more out of the wind gen than the solar panels. Solar doesn't work for beans when the sun don't shine.

I'm an engine hater. Love the peace and quiet of sailing or a deserted anchorage. It's a big reason that I don't have refrigeration or an autopilot. You are right that sitting in an anchorage with enough wind to generate major amperage is an area I'd try and avoid. Still, hate to pass up all that free wind power that could be the difference in not having to use the engine to charge batteries
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Old 18-07-2014, 18:35   #10
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

I reckon both solar and wind, although it does depend on where you are. On passage, if there us enough wind too sail, normally (but sometimes not - downwind) the windgen is good. No wind - then we motor, and power is no problem. The solar comes into its own in calm sunny anchorages! Also note, in higher lats we tend to anchor out of the wind if possible. In tropical areas, we choose to anchor in the breeze if we can to help keep the boat cooler.
If your windgen blades are damaged, sand them smooth. It will help with both noise and vibration. If the noise really bothers you with an air x, the new, carbon blades are a big improvement, but still nowhere near as good as the silent wind ones. I have both, and the carbon ones I use for spares. The silent wind ones are more expensive. You can get them from my website if you're interested.

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Old 18-07-2014, 18:40   #11
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

Horses & Courses...

I don't enjoy the noise and atmosphere they create, but I plan to have one anyway. In my limited experience the admiral starts getting nervous when the wind genny makes it sound like 35 knots and its really in the low 20's.
For this reason a convertible/tow has some attraction, but sticking the thing in the water is obviously a drag.

I'd like to get away without having a diesel generator - possibly a little portable Honda 2kw jobby.

I plan on doing a fair bit of passage making where instruments, auto helm, fridge & freezer are all running 24/7.
The key thing a wind genny offers me is the ability to keep my batteries topped up while sailing in the many situations where solar is not doing anything (overcast / in shadow of sail / evening/night/morning time) without having to have a heavy/noisy generator.

If the wind is too light, im motoring anyway, so the batteries are getting juiced from the alternator.

If I bought a boat with a diesel generator, i'd have to do some serious thinking about the cost/benefit of installing a new wind genny.
If I had a boat with a wind genny, i'd certainly try and make the most out of it.
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Old 18-07-2014, 18:49   #12
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

We are on year 7 of full time living aboard off the dock (at Anchor or Mooring) so 100% of our power comes from Solar, Wind, or the Honda 2000i generator/ engine alternator. Even as the the owner of the KISS Wind Generator, I still tell people to put as much solar on their boat that they can fit FIRST and then if you have budget and room install a wind generator. To me it's a bang for the buck issue and even as the owner of a Wind Generator company, I still view Solar as the first choice.

Here's a look at our energy production data for the last two 28 months:
Solar has produced 57% of our power (first 250W, then 410W and now 1380W)
Wind has produced 28% of our Power
Honda 2000 and Alternator produced 15% of our Power

Now our cruising and live aboard grounds are on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Sea of Cortez, and Morro Bay in California, which is not known as a windy area. Other than the useful percentages, what I think is important is that when one charging device was not putting out much power the other typically was, so there is some value in having power generating options rather than relying on one source.

It's great to be sitting on the boat at night in 20kts of wind and seeing Amps going into the battery bank, but it's also a bummer to be motoring across a dead calm Sea of Cortez and looking up at my $1500 wind generator/wind vane asking what's it doing up there! Right now, sitting here in the Morro Bay summer fog, my 1380Amps of solar is still putting out about 24Amps while my KISS is putting in 13-17Amps as the wind blows. So in the end, it's nice to have both because I was able to run my washing machine today from wind and solar.....nice.....
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Old 18-07-2014, 20:01   #13
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
My paradigm is that wind is good for higher latitudes and solar is better for tropics.
.
Says the man living within a degree or so of the equator.

Get ten degrees off and the trades can generate a lot of energy when "the sun don't shine".
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Old 19-07-2014, 04:42   #14
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Re: Are Wind Generators even worth it?

We have no shortage of wind here. A day of less than ten knots is pretty rare. We seem to average around 15 knots in the summer, 20 in the winter.

So it sounds like the majority, so far, would put money into refurbishing an old wind generator instead of junking it and buying another couple hundred watts of solar.
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Old 19-07-2014, 05:17   #15
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Location is critical. also wind varies tremendously through seasons in most locations. Technically wind generators fall into two categories: alternators & generators. In life they fall into two categories noisy( high output) and quiet(low output. But there are a few new kids on the block that claim to be both high output and quiet $$$$$) pretty much every decision on a boat is a compromise( blah blah blah) the choice i made was a medium size battery bank (420ah) A large solar array and two quiet wind generators( amp air and Rutland) I added the wind generators after I had 400 watts of solar. And dollar for dollar they can't compare to the solar but the beauty is they produce when the Solar is not. I have about another 300 watts of solar to install but I'm in no rush, what I have is keeping up with my needs. And for me I would never buy a wind generator that was noisy. But if I had one already installed on my boat I would use it instead of an internal combustion generator
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