Small Wind Turbine Testing Lab

Small-scale wind turbines help address a global need for cheap, reliable distributed energy. The market for these small (0.1 -10 kW) turbines ranges from remote off-grid locations to residential systems and grid-tied commercial applications. In recent years, the wind market has seen a rapid increase with a 28% annual growth rate and over 60 GW of installed capacity worldwide. However, small wind turbines only account for an estimated 30 MW or 0.05% of this capacity. There are several technological issues that small wind turbines face, attributing to this minute fraction of their potential installed capacity. These issues include: 1) inefficient designs compared with utility-scale counterparts, 2) consumer noise and reliability concerns, 3) non-standardized performance specifications, and 4) the lack of non-biased testing centers.
This summer, RAEL is starting a small wind test center at our new lab facility in the Richmond Field Station to address these research issues.
Each turbine tested will be evaluated based on IREC small wind performance specifications (IEC-64000) and their performance published in industry standard formatting. This evaluation will include a performance field-test, an acoustic noise field-test and a system safety and function test. In addition, for new turbine designs, our testing process will include fulfilling all requirements for addition to the Emerging Renewables Program list of small wind turbines eligible for rebates from the California Energy Commission.

Biomass Energy in Zimbabwe

The project's goal is to promote sustainable biomass energy management for positive economic development in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Although its focus is on Eastern Zimbabwe, if successful it promises to be a model for the integration of large-scale and community/household-scale sustainable biomass energy and ecological management in a number of developing nations. The project will consist of testing, evaluating, and implementing methods for sustainable power generation using the wood waste produced by large, medium and small sawmills operating in the Manicaland region, near the border of Mozambique. Currently, over 70,000 tons of this biomass waste is produced annually. The project's principal objectives will be to examine the technical and economic feasibility of the available alternative biomass energy generation technologies, their effect on the forest-management practices, and the social implications for this region.

Amorphous Silicon Photovoltaic Systems in Kenya

In this project we evaluated the performance and condition of single junction amorphous silicon (a-Si) modules used in PV systems installed in Kenya, and used this opportunity to provide additional training and market analysis opportunities for local East African renewable energy entrepreneurs. We carefully surveyed a-Si PV systems and measured PV module performance in each site. We analyzed the data in order to establish the survival rate and performance of a-Si modules in field operating conditions and to identify equipment and institutional options that could benefit the private PV industry and the end-user community in East Africa. We are sharing the results with solar rural electrification projects, manufacturers, dealers and end-users as well as the international development community through publications, correspondence, and regional workshops.

Image: Rural Kenyan woman holding her amorphous silicon photovoltaic panel

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