Articles Posted in the Renewable energy category

Small-scale wind power blows into SA

August 28, 2008
Posted in Renewable energy

I’d always thought that to generate electricity from wind you’d need a great expanse of open space that the wind could howl across to turn giant turbines, but you don’t. Recently, in South Africa, I’ve come across two types of turbine that prove that you don’t need to live on a farm to have a wind turbine. You could, in fact, generate wind power for your home or office. How exciting is that?

The first wind turbine system was installed on a billboard in Bryanston, Johannesburg, see right. It comprises lots of little round turbines joined together. James Lech, the director of Phieco, the local company that sells and installs these turbines says they are designed for urban and rural environments and the system can be scaled to suit your needs. They can be installed on buildings to generation power for lights or air conditioning, for example. What’s more, these little turbines start turning at wind speeds of 1m/s. They also come in different colours, so you could design your system to look like the South African flag, or some other picture, if you like. Go to Phieco’s website to find out more information.

The other turbine is the hybrid wind/solar generator that’s on trial at Cape Town’s N2 Gateway low-cost housing project. It’s known as the Little Wind House (LWH), see left.

From what I can gather, Swiss company Greentecno designed it specifically for developing markets as a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to diesel generators for small-scale electricity generation in rural/off-the-grid locations. It’s described as extremely sturdy, resistant to very high winds and extreme weather conditions, it’s easy to assemble, installation and construction costs are low, and it’s said to need nearly no maintenance.

The LWH’s average generation capacity is 15kWh/day. It’s peak capacity is 4,8kW. It stands 7m high, has a small, vertical-axis wind turbine and eight photovoltaic panels with a peak capacity of 170W each and a maximum power output of the solar component is 1,4kW.

The Times reports that the Cape Town generator will provide power to 10 houses. It sells for R310,000 and the housing department is assessing its cost-effectiveness.

Update (03.09.08): The LWH’s generating capacity is now 25kWh/day. They are also manufactured locally, says Maurits Perold of Greentecno Africa.

Sources: The Times, All ,, Greentecno