Question asked by Neal:

How good are the wind battery chargers on Great American III? Should we use something like them in our homes? asked by Jenna


Skipper Rich Wilson is using one small wind turbine (perhaps 4 feet in diameter) aboard Great American III. The turbine produces 400 watts at its peak. The turbine makes environmental sense because the only consequences of its lifetime production of energy are the resources, energy, and emissions involved in its manufacture, installation, and eventual recycling or disposal.

Powering a house using wind would likely require a larger turbine than Great American III’s with perhaps 2,000 watts peak capacity and a 12-foot diameter. Houses consume more power and are rarely in places as windy as the open ocean. For houses on hills or near the ocean, a wind turbine placed high enough might work. To know if it makes sense to build one in such a place, you would need to measure the wind carefully before building the turbine. The amount of energy generated by the turbine would depend on the size of turbine and the amount of wind at its location. By contrast, the really large turbines (about 300 feet in diameter) used by power companies can produce as much as 5,000,000 watts.

In spring 2009, we at the Museum of Science in Boston will test five different kinds of wind turbines on the museum’s roof. Besides learning how they perform, our visitors will consider other factors such as noise, safe installation, vibration, and impact on birds and bats. At the Museum now, visitors can explore exhibits on wind and solar power, try their hand at building a windmill, and discover ways to produce and store electricity and their environmental consequences.