#1 cleantech news, reviews, & analysis site in the world. Subscribe today. The future is now.

Clean Power distributed wind including micro wind turbines

Published on December 16th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Micro Wind Turbines: Another Big Headache For Big Oil

December 16th, 2014 by  

Oil companies in the US have been retrenching as the market goes into free-fall, but when the dust settles and prices begin their inevitable upward climb the survivors will face some stiff — and unprecedented — competition. Among other factors, the US wind industry is on the verge of breaking through into new territory. Utility scale offshore wind energy is the obvious place to watch, but we’re also interested in the role that micro wind turbines could play.

To clarify, we’re thinking that as a standalone source micro wind probably wouldn’t cut it. The idea is to look at micro wind turbines in the context of a national distributed wind energy strategy.

distributed wind including micro wind turbines

Distributed wind energy system including micro wind turbines (screenshot, courtesy of US DOE).

Micro Wind Turbines And Distributed Wind Energy

For those of you new to the topic, the Energy Department’s Wind Program defines distributed wind in terms of application. If a turbine is located fairly close to the point of use, and is either off-grid or connected directly to a local distribution grid, then it fits the distributed wind energy mold.

Although distributed wind energy strategies could include anything from 5 kilowatts on up to utility scale turbines, the Energy Department is focusing its grant dollars for distributed wind on the small/micro wind turbine sector.

In contrast to utility scale wind farms, which take up a lot of space and typically require long transmission lines, distributed wind turbines can be scaled down to individual markets including agricultural operations, industry, commercial facilities, academic institutions, and a lot more. All else being equal in terms of site selection, the possibilities are practically limitless for micro wind application.

In the “more” category, take a look at the way that professional sports franchises are using micro wind turbines, and you’ll see what direction we’re heading in. Aside from generating clean power, the eye-catching turbines ringing the top of a stadium add a shimmer of luster to the brand. The Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills provide a couple of examples.

Last month, Ford took the brand luster approach to the next level by installing “Windy System” vertical-axis micro wind turbines at four selected dealerships. The sail-type turbines, from the company Wind Energy, sport the Ford logo so they double as kinetic signboards.

Ford and Wind Energy micro wind turbine

An air enabled sign (image courtesy of Wind Energy).

In other words, in the micro wind market you don’t have to focus strictly on technology that gives you the biggest bang for your buck. You can also focus on aesthetics and brand identification.

When you consider the other types of air-enabled signs out there…

air enabled sign versus micro wind turbines

Another air enabled sign (image cropped, by Valerie Hinojosa via flickr.com, cc license).

…you can see the attraction of micro wind turbines beyond their more practical uses.

Micro Wind Turbines And Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Although micro wind has taken its share of criticism on a cost-per-kilowatt basis, back in the early days of the Bush Administration the US wind industry worked with the Energy Department to lay out the “U.S. Small Wind Turbine Industry Roadmap.” At the time, the US micro wind industry was a global leader, and the aim was to keep it that way.

Unfortunately, as global micro wind competition has heated up (here’s a recent example), support for the domestic wind industry has been facing some stiff political opposition.

You can round up the usual (primarily Republican) suspects for that, with the notable exception of several state governors and longtime wind champion Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley.

Last week, Grassley co-signed a letter in support of distributed wind energy and micro wind turbines along with lead signer Al Franken (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Tim Johnson (D-SD). Here’s the meat:

It’s a brief letter so go ahead and read the whole thing, but for those of you on the go here’s the part that presents a case for the Energy Department to allocate $6. 4 million to continue developing technology, performance, permitting, financing, and interconnection systems to push for rapid commercialization:

…The result would be thousands of new jobs and increased local economic development across the nation…Distributed wind systems have exceptionally high domestic content-exceeding 90 percent-and the broadly dispersed nature of this technology, in terms of applications, manufacturers, and installers, means that the expansion of distributed wind will create jobs and stimulate local economies in nearly every region of the country.

So, what do you think? Is the time ripe for micro wind turbines? Even with oil prices crashing off the cliff, we’re seeing indications of stagnating demand for oil as more renewable energy and energy efficiency technology enters the US marketplace, and micro wind could play a part in that scenario.

That doesn’t mean we’re off the hook in terms of the risks and impacts of oil extraction (and, for that matter, transportation) — it just means the US oil industry will have to seek new markets overseas when it emerges from the bust.

Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

Tags: , , ,

About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Robert Pollock

    I’m Canadian but I have permanent resident status in the US. At this time of year here in Palm Springs, we get an infusion of Canucks, mostly from the western provinces where big oil rules. They laugh at my eco-efforts, thinking me naive, but they don’t understand the costs. Around here an electric car costs the same or less, when you subtract about $2000 per year that gas cars use. All my electricity for the car is free.
    Next is maintenance. People don’t count that as significant, but who didn’t spend $500 last year (if they own an ICE car) on oil changes, tune-ups and all that’s required to keep the motors and drive trains running? My wife’s Benz was over $1500 last year and she drove it less than 1000 miles. (MB hasn’t figured out the pollution control devices yet, those O2 sensors are $300 each, her’s has two) Catalytic converter: $2200.
    Maintenance for my Spark? I’m thinking……
    To be totally honest, the Spark will need the ‘cabin air-filter’ replaced at 10,000 miles, I have no idea what it will cost, and the tires will be replaced shortly after. The brakes last 100,000 miles because the regenerating does most of the stopping.

  • Robert Pollock

    To protect the profitable monopolies of their corporate masters, they’re willing to sacrifice anything, from the American citizens’ table. The worst part for me, is understanding how so many Americans then swallow their diatribes. I can only conclude that the majority of Americans prefer to be told, what to do. I drive an all electric Spark in Palm Springs, where electric car conditions are idyllic, yet I have Republican friends who are insulted, by my common sense. “My Grand Cherokee is the only car my wife is comfortable in…” is one view point on why driving a car that gets less than 10 mpg is ok.
    Last year, my Spark cost me less to operate per month than my niece in Toronto pays for a bus pass. Zero emissions. Safe. Quiet, Clean. Doesn’t smell or leak oil. Goes like my Norton Commando did and the best part? Occasionally we’re invited to one of the country club events, and I park it next to the Porsches, MacLaren, Ferraris and Jaguars and it gets more attention, once someone figures out why it’s so quiet. Not too many Teslas around here yet, they’re over the mountain in San Diego.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Yes, I was wrong on the rotor span of the Bergey 1 kW. The website I was looking at to get a price has it listed incorrectly.

    That said, the Bergey has a 8 foot span for 1 kW. The Aleko claims to get 3 kWh with a smaller span. That does not make sense. You’d have to mount the Aleko in areas with very high wind speeds to drive the generator with blades that small.

    Now as for the rest.

    You seem to have found no performance data. The fact that they are selling some units on line is pretty meaningless. People sell magic powder to cure warts on line.

    “Is this too good to be true, or what?”

    Pretty sure it is. Yep. Very unlikely true….

  • Bob_Wallace

    Roger, I can find no performance data for this turbine. I can find no independent reviews.

    As I reported, the Bergey 1 kW has a 20 foot rotor. The Akeko rotor pictures on Amazon (there is no data) look to 4′ to 5′. Does it not seem suspicious that they are so much smaller than the Bergey yet the claim is for 3x as much output?

  • Karl B. Hensel

    I am a very ignorant person especially in science. All I remember pretty much from science class is energy and matter can not be destroyed just changed? Is it possible to generate even a small amount of electricity using micro turbines on cars? Since they are moving or would the drag coefficient from the turbines themselves negate any positive results? I imagine a more horizontal cylindrical design instead of the more conventional wind turbine.
    Ok. Hit me with the ignorance of my statement. I want to learn.

    • Larmion

      You said it yourself. The drag added would outweigh the power gain. By their very nature, turbines induce a lot of drag (they have to capture wind), so you don’t want them on your car.

      So even if you don’t have scientific training, you have a good intuition and a bit of common sense. Congratulations, you have all it takes to learn science!

      • Karl B. Hensel

        Thanks for the kind words. Never though the day would come when this 54 year old would want to be a so called nerd! Funny how that worked out.

  • Roger Pham

    Be nice to Ms Tina Casey, y’all, for she’s on to something.
    Just imagine placing 3-kW horizontal wind turbines on top of all small power poles, and 100-kW turbines on top of all large high-voltage poles with wide base! Then you’ll be able to reduce cost of wind power to half, because the pole is mostly paid for, and the transmission line is already there. Maintenance can be done at the same time the power line is maintained. Non-functioning turbines can be replaced in minutes with a re-manufactured ones. Cost of these micro-turbines can be well under $500 per kW rated power when purchased in bulk. High-volume manufacture with automation can significantly reduce costs per kW in comparison to MW-sized turbines in much smaller numbers.
    Look, Ma, No more stranded wind!

    • Bob_Wallace

      Bad thinking-math.

      Small turbines are not cost effective. And small turbines close to the ground just don’t grab good wind.

      There’s this other problem, Roger. When the wind blows the turbine blades are going to hit the power lines and create quite a show. (But no electricity.)

      • Roger Pham

        I’ve shown my math, including the cost of the 3-kW turbine well under $500 per kW, may be $300 per kW when produced in the millions, and the cost of the poles and power lines, which are mostly already paid for. Power lines are not so close to the ground, depending on geography, and since the micro turbines are so cheap per kW, it will make up for less wind at lower altitudes.

        Even considering the worst-case scenerario, even if micro-wind will cost twice as much as MW wind turbines per kW, considering the proximity to site of consumption, hence savings on the cost of grid power distribution costing 3-5 cents per kWh, in the end, might come out even. The business model is similar to 10-cent-kWh home-based solar PV beating out grid-based electricity with wholesale input of 4-6 cents per kWh. 10-cent-kWh neighborhood-based wind will complement solar PV nicely and will save on the cost of battery storage. Imagine a future micro-grid consists entirely of solar PV, micro wind turbines on top of local power line poles, minimum of battery storage, CHP fuel cells, and a local H2 piping.

        If a MW-wind turbine breaks, it will take a major effort to fix it, considering the lower accessibility and the need to repair on site, due to the behemoth size of everything. A micro-wind turbine can be replaced entirely on the spot with a remanufactured one in just minutes, using the same tools as electricity linemen use to repair broken power lines. The accessibility is great, and the infrastructure is already in place.

        Place the micro-turbine high enough to clear the power lines. They are about 3-meter diameter, which means mounting the pod at 2-meter height above the top of the pole would be sufficient.
        Let’s see your math.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You might want to read what the AWEA has to say about small turbines.


          A Bergey 1 kW turbine sells for about $4,500. Rotor diameter is a bit over 20 feet.

          Their 5 kW turbine sells for a bit over $30,000. $6,000 per kW.

          I’m not sure where you find a turbine for $500 per kW. Perhaps you could give us the source.

          • Helmuth G

            A Bergey 1 kW turbine has a rotor diameter of 8.2 feet, not “a bit over 20 feet” . The excel 6 has “about 20 feet diameter”, but I didn’t expect to get accurate and valuable information from you – as most of the time when you comment.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Yes, I was wrong on the rotor span of the Bergey 1 kW. The website I was looking at to get a price has it listed incorrectly.

            That said, the Bergey has a 8 foot span for 1 kW.”

            Best not to pull the trigger before clearing leather. That’s how one shoots themselves in the foot.

            Now, if you are going to charge me with mostly posting mostly posting misinformation you probably want to back that up otherwise people will see you as the liar you appear to be.

  • Hans

    Small wind turbines are ok for off-grid applications in rural areas. Grid connected small wind turbines make no sense. Close to the ground the wind speeds are low and the wind is turbulent, in cities even more so. Large wind turbines placed on high masts will always deliver cheaper electricity. No amount of wishful thinking can change that.

  • spec9

    Meh. Small wind is generally not economical . . . especially vertical axis turbines. And even if it was, the wind market generates electricity and that has nothing to do with oil market which generates only about 1% of our electricity. This author needs to learn more before writing about these topics.

    • Roger Pham

      Be nice to Ms Casey. Read my posting below here to understand why!

  • JamesWimberley

    The easy run that Tina and commenters here give micro-wind is amazing, compared to the barracking of the analogous technology of hydrogen vehicles. Let me say it: micro-wind is a marginal gimmick. Unlike solar, wind energy has very large economies of size, from the stronger wind at height to the greater swept area. The Germans have the right idea. Wind can be married to energy democracy through cooperatives building serious, efficient, 80 metre, >1mw turbines. Building your own tiny one can only seem a good idea if you are wedded to an American myth of ruggedly self-reliant homesteaders. I suspect Big Oil is quite happy to see its green adversaries wasting their energy on sentimental sideshows.

    • Jenny Sommer

      We got a lot community owned/financed wind and solar and it is definitely better to put some money into that.

      I’ve yet to find someone reporting on economic small wind installations.
      Any examples here? Tina?

    • ADW

      I differ on your opening statement. Tina gives a lot of good press to small wind but the comments ‘mostly’ state micro and small wind is a bad idea unless its for ‘off-grid’. I find urban micro-wind a waste of time, systems seem to be ‘pretty to look at in AutoCAD’ but really bad in production.

      I am beginning to wonder if Tina gets paid by the number of visits thus she likes to write and post ‘click bait’ type postings knowing it will bring out the comments and drive more revenue. That horrible Ford press release of a few weeks ago comes to mind.

  • Steven F

    Why are small wind articles always focusing on vertical access turbines. The picture of the small turbine with “Ford” painted on it is a vertical axes drag turbine the least efficient design which in general only work in very strong winds.

    The other type is an aerodynamic vertical axes turbine. The thin blades on these turbines are actually wings. The airflow over these turbines creates the needed torque while generating minimal drag. the wings need smooth air to perform at there best unfortunately the tower creates turbulence that affect the wings. These perform better than the drag turbines.

    No amount of research is going to resolve the issues with vertical axes turbines

    The most efficient type of turbine is the aerodynamic horizontal axes wind turbine. Minimal drag and minimal turbulence. Small horizontal wind turbines do exist (down to about 100 Watts) and they do work very well. They still need to be placed on a tall tower to get above turbulence from trees and buildings. If you read Homepower.com (a magazine about home renewable systems) almost all of the turbines shown are horizontal access turbines for obvious reasons, they do work.

    Unfortunately like all mechanical systems they need regular maintenance. The taller towers needed in urban areas makes regular maintenance more difficult. if not maintained they will fail. if anything breaks off can hit and kill people. So ideally the turbine should be placed fare enough away from people and buildings. This is the main reason why few are installed in urban areas. Most city building codes don’t allow them. Additionally most urban residence don’t have enough land or want to climb a tall tower at least once per year to perform maintenance.

    • Larmion

      And conversely, no amount of research will resolve the issues with horizontal wind turbines.

      They are indeed the most efficient design, but they have several issues that make the unviable for urban use.

      a) Shadow: the flickering shadow a HAWT generates is… unpopular with the neighbors, to put it mildy.
      b) Noise (though this can be mitigated at the expense of cost and efficiency).
      c) HAWT’s are more vulnerable to the stress of turbulent air frow than drag type VAWT’s, so reliability nosedives.
      d) They typically have a higher cut-in wind speed, though that’s not universally true.

      In short, no wind turbine is suited to the urban environment.

      • Steven F

        “a) Shadow: the flickering shadow a HAWT.”

        Vertical axis aerodynamic turbines alos have blades. The size of the blades for all turbines is roughly proportional to the power output. of the turbine. Since vertical axis turbines are less efficient than horizontal turbines they will need larger blades to achieve the same output. So horizontal and vertical axis turbines create flicker.

        “b) Noise (though this can be mitigated at the expense of cost and efficiency).”

        Turbulence (noise) is caused by inefficiency. Reducing inefficiency almost always reduces noise. Some small horizontal axis turbines have curved blades to reduce turbulence and noise and to some extent that makes them more efficient than straight blades.

        Vertical axis turbines have turbulence from the tower, the blades, and the structure that attaches the blades to the tower. All of that creates more turbulence and more noise and lower efficiency.

        “c) HAWT’s are more vulnerable to the stress of turbulent air frow than drag type VAWT’s, so reliability nosedives.”

        It doesn’t take a lot of searching to find posts about vertical axis turbines not working. It is harder to find such stores for horizontal axis turbines.

        In 1933 a base was setup in Antarctica and a Jacobs horizontal axis turbine was installed. The base was then abandoned. When people returned 14 years later the turbines was still there and still operational. The turbine remained in use until 1955. Very strong winds are common in the winter months of Antarctica.


        “d) They typically have a higher cut-in wind speed, though that’s not universally true.”

        Everything I have read indicates the opposite. Additionally the cut in speed is strongly influenced by the design of the generator and electronics. However the higher efficiency of horizontal axis turbines means they get up to speed faster and start producing power faster.

        Vertical axis turbines generally need a electric motor to spin them up to speed before they can start producing power. they are not self starting. Horizontal turbines are self starting. So in very variable (gust, little to no wind, gust..) the vertical axis may not sense enough wind to turn on and not turn.

        a horizontal turbine would instantly respond to changes in the wind and generate power.

        “And conversely, no amount of research will resolve the issues with horizontal wind turbines”.

        This statement applies to all turbines. Performance is determined by aerodynamics . Larger vertical axis turbines were tried in the 1980 along side horizontal turbines in the Altimont pass area of California. The industry quickly found that horizontal turbines consistently outperformed vertical axis turbines in terms of power produced, cost, and reliability. The vertical axis turbines were scrapped in the 1990 and the original horizontal turbines are still there producing power.

  • Vensonata

    I am all for the clean energy revolution, but Urban wind just won’t happen. Moving parts, turbulence, throwing ice (watch out for ice coming off of even small arms!) and more. Pv will be the way in the city, plus insulation, heat pumps storage …all elegant and reliable. Put the big 6mw whirly whirlies out in the country where they belong. And in a few limited farms micro wind works great, but not significant in the big and very urgent need to stop the carbon disaster.

  • Maui Mike

    Just as TV’s supplemented the motion picture industry, small wind will have a niche going forward as people realize the savings inherent in PV & wind systems at the residential level. The prospect of powering our cars & homes w/ renewable energy is very real & enticing.

  • harisA

    There is this general misinformation among people that vertical turbines work in turbulent air better than the horizontal kind. They may turn, but there is very little harvest able energy in turbulent air.

    All turbines need brisk, streamlined air flow to extract energy. Good thing about very small turbines (<500W) are they can be put in area where there is good enough localized flow. That has to be determined by some experimentation though.

    • Jenny Sommer

      There are other ways than experimentation.
      Sorry it’s in German.
      They use available 3D data to asses the wind in cities. The resolution is 20pts/m² and it’s accurate to 0.1m/s verified by anemometer readings over a longer period.
      The data was too much for their supercomputer at first The new software was optimized to use 1/10th of the original data size.
      A windmap costs about 20-40.000€ per city…the 3D data should be available.

      The interesting finding is that there are many sites that average around 5m/s windspeed.

      What’s the average windspeed at which a microturbine could compete with solar? Could it even compete?

      • harisA

        At night it will always win:-)

        That being said, the power in the wind is is proportional of cubed of wind speed. Thus 8m/s wind has eight time more power than 4m/s wind. 10mph wind (in my opinion) is minimum.

        I doubt that small wind will be economical that solar in cities. However, in farms and small towns it could be very economical.

  • Bob

    I think it’s fantastic, but the problem I see is no so much city or rural applications, but suburban developments. I can see many towns having ordinances against tall towers next to people’s houses. Not to mention, the mentality of the neighbors would probably have to be changed!

    • Matt

      In much of suburban area homes are in the areas that have HOAs. Many have anti PV, and chances of a wind turbine tower getting past HOA committee is very low.

  • ADW

    “Big Oil” does not really care much about wind or solar. Oil is primary used for transportation and we are decades away from big trucks/planes/boats/rail being 100% non oil or natural gas.

    It takes 10 years for the North American car fleet to completely turn over; to move to 100% electric cars, SUV’s & light duty trucks I expect will take 20+ years before all the car manufacturing converts to electric drive.

    Coal & nukes, they might have something to worry about with micro-wind. But as many have all ready stated, micro-wind will be a concern once micro-wind becomes a viable technology.

    • Will E

      Coal and Nukes might have something to worry about, and its not micro wind.
      its 6 Megawatt Windturbines. install a thousand you got 6000 megawatt
      onshore offshore fast and easy. in the Netherlands we have windmills 400 years old, still working.

  • Marion Meads

    Most urban centers are located in areas where there is much less prevailing strong winds. Why would you establish a city in very windy areas, I don’t buy that. Urban centers do not have excellent wind speed profile due to the roughness coefficient of an urban landscape. Therefore, micro turbines are by and large not practical for point of use by many urban dwellers. Just keep these in mind before bragging about the demise of big oil because of micro turbines.

    • Matt

      Likely the only useful spots for small wind turbines in a city are on top of the tallest buildings.

    • Marion, clean technology needs creativity and exhaustive literature (Google) searches. Here’s a giant report on urban area wind power from California gov. It doesn’t refute anything you said, just that it’s not as bad as you put it. Please note, I have no real interest in this subject, except general curiosity.

      “Urban Wind Power Assessment” May 2014.

      Who knows, it could be all BS, but given the size of the report there’s got to be something going on. I’m going to guess that that report linked above costed $150,000. The report pretty much does what all initial studies and feasibility reports do: recommend further research. The group recommend getting wind units high as possible. However, further research needs to be done on tapping the wind tunneling phenomena at street level.

      The turbulence could be a good thing, if taken advantage of properly with positioning and technical alterations. I have no idea.

      • Larmion

        Turbulence cannot be a good thing. The sudden and highly localized variations in fluid pressure and velocity will always induce extra stress, therefore making stronger (and thus heavier and/or more expensive) materials necessary. You might get power output up to par, but the cost of the turbine will always be more expensive than that of a similar t turbine in a better site.

        On the power output side, turbulent flow increases drag and reduces the energy projected in a particular plane (fluid particles move without clear directionality). Capturing energy from turbulent flow requires complex (and thus expensive) designs and even then will always produce rapidly fluctuating output (hardly something grid operators are waiting for).

        Sure, small wind has potential. Just not in (most) urban areas.

    • Jenny Sommer

      You have laminar flow and wind tunnels in cities. There are a lot of places in the city where windspeeds average around 5m/s.

      Here’s a new tool that asses windspeed of a whole city at a resolution of 20pts/m² at 0.1m/s accuracy.
      Why not exploit those spots when it is economical?


  • Larmion

    For big oil (rather big coal actually) to come under threat from small wind, small wind first has to start working.

    At the moment, small turbines have terrible capacity factors, poor reliability and a high cost per kWh. Not surprising, given the variable and limited wind resources in urban areas. And of course, there’s the age old horizontal vs vertical axis dilemma: horizontal axis is far more efficient and often more reliable, but shadow and noise make them ill suited to urban areas.

    Proper research into small wind is finally coming up to speed, but with limited promise. Take the WindUR project (by several European universities and companies): it aims for 15 cent per kWh with mass manufacturing and optimal design. Compare to big wind or even small solar.

    • Marion Meads

      Too bad, most urban centers are not ideal for small wind turbines. The best application of small wind turbines are in the rural areas, but only 15% of the population live there.

      • Larmion

        Sure, I said as much.

        It is quite possible to design a turbine that can cope with turbulent or weak winds, but the complexity of both design and materials make such designs economically suicidal.

  • Mike333

    We’re watching the unprecedented death of the oil industry, with no Plan B.

    Exxon over the last few years should have invested 20 BILLION dollars to diversify into the clean energy market, especially Wind in the Mid American states, and solar in the bottom 10 Southern States, training staff and expanding into new energy markets.

    Now, with no expanded business plan it suffers from a future of lower profits, with a low and dropping P/E ratio, costing SHAREHOLDERS a Fortune.

    Tillerson should be FIRED. How long are you going to hang on to a Losing Coach?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Oil should be a profitable industry for several years to come.

      We’re still waiting for our first long range sort-of-affordable EV. (~200 miles @~$30k)

      After that car appears it will take a few years for price to fall further, buyers to become more aware of EVs, and the new car market to switch over. And even ten years after that point there will still be a large amount of gas and diesel sold. It’s unlikely the oil industry (unlike the coal industry) will quickly crash. More of a slow die-away.

      Smart people holding oil stock should start selling off during price spikes. Oil is unlikely to be a growth market. Take advantage of good prices as they appear. Reposition money into industries with better long term growth potential.

      • rockyredneck

        EV production and acceptance can reduce the demand for oil and probably will in the future. To this point they are not really a noticeable factor in the market.
        Wind turbines are not likely to have much effect on oil unless it is to provide cheaper electricity for EVS.
        They could have an effect on NG, but reductions in coal usage (driven by it’s high environmental costs) are likely to keep that market good for some time.
        Except for occasional adjustments (oil markets have always been highly volatile) oil prices are likely to continue to trend up as demand increases and production costs go up.
        Current prices for oil will make a small percentage of oil production unprofitable and lead to some reduction in new development. There will be less drilling and large projects will be delayed or slowed. That will eventually lead to a tiny shortfall in meeting demand. That in turn will lead to a huge increase in price. If you can predict the timing and extent of these market swings, you can become a very rich man.
        In the mean time there is much oil production that is profitable at anything over 35 dollars per barrel. Companies with all their eggs in the high cost basket will be in trouble if the current prices last for long, but the ones with a more balanced portfolio will be fine.
        If growth potential is your investment criteria, you should not be looking at industries but rather at individual companies.There are likely many oil companies with good potential just as there will be many alternative energy companies with poor outlooks.

      • Pat Campbell

        +1 But all this is going to take time.
        Oil being plentiful and cheap should not be confused with oil refined and used. That will take a long time to change.
        In the meantime targeted, investing in refining and transportation will remain profitable. I think -for example- Kinder Morgan (KMI) is not something I would sell during spikes. Your tar sands and deep water operators are hot potatoes to be avoided or dropped now.

    • sault

      As much as I hate them, Exxon is probably a good stock to buy in the near future since they’re not going bankrupt anytime soon. You’d probably want to keep an eye on oil futures to time the stock purchases, but it will be impossible to predict the bottom of the oil market exactly. Either way, the lower oil and share prices get in the short term, the better the bargain you’ll get. Regardless, oil prices will pick up and in a non-linear / unpredictable way over the long term and Exxon will be right there to cash in.
      Maybe by the 2020’s, the combined pressures of resource depletion, fuel efficiency, conservation (in the form of better walkability / bikeability and transit options) and competition from electricity as a transportation fuel will put the squeeze on the industry, but that’s only if you extrapolate current trends. An expansionist Russia, the frequency / severity of climate change disasters and any number of other factors introduce a huge amount of uncertainty that makes things rather murky.

  • I said this a while back and say this again. The best marketing plan for selling micro turbines would be to make sure they are working. A non working wind turbine on a busy city intersection puts back distributed wind about 50 years. Despite Tina’s joyful super enthusiastic youthtastic (but PR department compliant) blog posts.

    For example, the shopping center down the street from me installed ten micro turbines (vertical). I don’t believe the supplier and the center manager ever communicate. Those things are in the off position or down way too much. This shopping center is on the corner of Cermak and Harlem. One of the busiest intersection in Chicago. Many people scoff at the fecklessness of these turbines. Many people don’t realize that the owner wasn’t all that interested in the turbines for generating power, but as an artistic statement. Also the folks who frequent the center range from uninterested to downright hostile to anything environment. We’re talking an area that doesn’t suffer overly loquacious book learners well.

    About the weird art:


    The shopping center is called Cermak Plaza and was made famous by the art sculpture featured in Waynes’ World. The wind turbines that replaced the car kabob is below that:

    • Marion Meads

      Urban centers have problems with windspeed profiles. The roughness coefficient is so large, with turbulence and eddies everywhere to get a wind turbine generate reliable power.

      • Awesome info. Thanks. Is there a fix? Beyond taking them down and reinstalling that rediculous car kabob sculpture.

        • Tom Capon

          You could try putting them another 20 feet higher, to clear the roof of the shopping center…

          • Great idea, but I have absolutely nothing to do with the center or the turbines. I just see them not working many days where it seems they should. And it seems like I’m the area’s default environmental apologist to many a mouth breather at the local bars. The owner lives in new jersey if I’m not mistaken. It would be an interesting thing to look into. The visibility alone does big small wind a solid, marketing wise.

          • Steven F

            Based on what I have read at Homepower.com, the turbines have to be at least 60 feet up to get smooth wind. 80 feet would be better.

        • Larmion

          There are basically two solutions:

          a) Do a full wind assessment in the hope of finding a spot that happens to experience strong winds and laminar(-ish) flow. Given the chaotic nature of fluid dynamics, such spots often exist even in largely turbulent areas.

          b) Build the turbine high enough to rise above the effects of vegetation, buildings and other obstacles.

          The problem is that neither solution is very practical. (a) is costly and takes more than a year to do properly. (b) is often constrained by local zoning laws and increases costs far too much.

Back to Top ↑