It's exciting to witness development of increasingly efficient wind power technologies (to see Popular Science's geek-worthy eye candy on that front, click here and here). But what can we do with our old wind power equipment as the early models become outdated?
According to the company's industry research, over 10,000 machines that were installed during the mid ‘80s and ‘90s may soon be replaced by larger, more modern turbines. That's a lot of generation capacity that would otherwise be scrapped.
"While big machines make sense on a wind farm, these ‘mid-scale' machines are perfect for agriculture, schools, villages and other commercial and industrial applications," said Brian Kuhn, VP of Marketing for Aeronautica Windpower.
Although Kuhn admits that not all old machines are fit for reuse, the ones that can be refurbished offer a significant cost savings over a new turbine (they estimate sale prices between US $80,000 to 120,000). That will open up the option for wind power to a mid-scale market, where Kuhn says he feels there are a lot of potential buyers. He estimates that the lower cost of a recycled machine allows the owner to recover his or her initial investment in as little as 4-5 years of resulting energy savings.
What's also great about Aeronautica's model is that it shows we shouldn't be afraid to adopt new energy technologies while they are still in their early phases. Yes, we will continue to see the emergence of newer, better turbines in the years to come. But our energy situation is too much in need of immediate change to let the pursuit of perfection stand in the way of doing the best we can with the technology available now. Quite the opposite: As Aeronautica's model shows, the existence of old models, when handled resourcefully, will enable windpower technology to spread more quickly into areas that would not have been able to access it otherwise.
Considering that $80,000 is about what John Deere charges for a mid-size tractor, this is a no-brainer for farmers looking to get off the grid (or maybe to sell power to the grid) and reduce their carbon footprint. The grain farmers out there raking in the bucks from ethanol-stoked corn prices should set aside some dough to get one or two of these for when the ethanol boom ends; then they'll be sitting pretty. (And if they can get electric tractors to do most of their farm needs, they're really sitting pretty.)