Renewable Energy - Solar-Wind Hybrid Systems

What is a Solar Wind hybrid System?

Solar/wind hybrids use solar panels and small wind turbine generators to generate electricity. They work in small capacities. Typical capacities are in the range of 1 kW to 10 kW for the solar panel and the wind turbine combined system.

What are the applications are Solar Wind Hybrid systems?

The solar wind hybrid systems are used where the load is relatively small. In commercial and industrial sectors, the systems are used (for example) in rural offices or small tourist hotels where power shortage is chronic. It can be used in schools especially in rural and urban fringe areas. It can be used for military (charging of communication units) as well as in railways (track signaling).

It can be used in high end residential apartments and villas for specific needs. Amitabh Bachchan’s villa in Pune has a solar wind hybrid system for powering the garage doors!

What is the technology behind solar wind hybrid systems?

The solar panel and the wind turbine works in tandem to charge a battery via a controller. The wind turbine could be a vertical axis wind turbine or a horizontal axis wind turbine (wind mills of megawatt level capacities are always horizontal axis). In a typical hybrid system the battery is first charged by the Solar, then by Wind and if necessary, by grid. You should discuss with your solution provider the vertical and the horizontal axis wind turbine choice based on the wind speeds prevailing in your region.

What are the benefits of installing this technology?

It is hard to determine precise payback periods for solar wind hybrid systems. The solar wind hybrid systems work best in industrial-commercial situations where the grid power is in chronic short supply or where the remoteness of the terrain makes power supply unreliable (military, railway application) or where the power is expected all the time (high end apartment owners have such expectations).

One type of industrial-commercial area which can use this product is small rural offices: rural health centers, e-governance canters, agricultural center offices, Village Level entrepreneurs’ kiosks/chauppals. These small rural offices will run on a few fans and lights, one or two computers and a laser/bio-metric scanner. It will typically consume 3-4 units of power per day. The discharge/charge cycle below will explain the benefit:

Time Grid Supply Charging/Discharging
During the Day (9 AM to 7 PM) Intermittent Supply From the Solar and Wind, from grid , depending on conditions, Solar supports load and battery charging simultaneously. Battery may be fully discharged at the end of some days.
Till late night/early morning (1 AM) Grid not available Battery charged to 15-20% by wind
From early morning (1 AM) to sunrise (6 AM) Grid available Battery charged to 90% by grid
From sunrise to office commencement (9 AM) Grid available Battery charged by solar/grid to 100%m

Configuration & Cost of meeting the 3 units of power required per day:

A range of typical configurations is as follows:

Solar 600W 1 kW 3.5 kW
Wind 500W 1 KW 3.5 kW
Number of electricity units produced per day (kwhr) 4 8 28
Capital Cost Rs. 2,50,000Rs. 4,00,000 Rs. 12,00,000

As a potential customer, what are some of the questions that I should be asking?

Q. At what wind speeds does the wind turbine work?

Typically wind turbines in hybrid systems starts charging at 3m/s and typically suited for average yearly wind speeds of about 5m/s.

Q. In what months of the year does the system not work?

The system works all year round except for a few hours on some days when wind and sun are both not available.

Q. How much does a vertical axis wind turbine weigh? Can it be placed on existing roofs or do you have to design the foundation to take into consideration of the weight?

The smaller wind turbines (500W) weighs 44 kgs. At the higher end, the 3.5 kW weighs 250 kgs.

Q. How much area does the entire system take up?

The smaller systems (1 kW) take up about 1 sq. metre of area (which is the foundation area of the wind turbines). The solar panels typically take up 12 sq. metres for each 1 kW.

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