What wind turbine is best for us?

There was much debate trying to decide on the windmill for the high school. One question to consider in choosing a windmill is what type of windmill to choose. Most people don’t know that there are even different types of windmills (I didn’t either until Windplanners!). There are two basic types of windmills: horizontal axis (HAWT) and vertical axis (VAWT).

When you picture a windmill, chances are you picture a horizontal axis windmill. There are several advantages to a HAWT. One of these is that it’s more stable than a VAWT because the blades are to the side of the turbine’s center of gravity. On a VAWT, the blades spin around the center of gravity, which decreases stability. Also, HAWTs are generally taller than VAWTs. The height of a HAWT ranges from 200 to 300 feet, while VAWTs are generally half that. HAWTs are also usually self-starting, so they don’t require a motor to start the rotation. HAWTs are also generally cheaper, mainly due to high production. However, the biggest advantage to a HAWT wind turbine is that the angle of the blades can be changed. This is helpful both in maximizing efficiency by catching the wind, but also in minimizing damage during a storm. There are disadvantages to HAWTs, though. For example, transportation can cost up to 20% of the total price due to difficulty transporting the tower and blades (which can be up to 180 feet long!) These tall towers are also difficult to install, requiring enormous cranes and specialists. Also, there are major concerns about tall towers interfering with radars at air force bases and with bird migration cycles.

The alternative to horizontal axis wind turbines are vertical axis wind turbines, or VAWTs. These are rather odd-looking structures that resemble egg beaters. The advantages of VAWTs are that they are easier to maintain and repair because most of the moving parts are near the ground. In some places such as mountains, mesas, and other high places can have winds closer to the ground in which a VAWT can produce more energy than a HAWT, which would be placed higher up. Also, the low height can be useful in avoiding conflict with local ordinances. VAWTs can also be easier and thus less expensive to transport and install because of the low height. They do, however, have many disadvantages. One major one is that most VAWTs produce only 50% as much energy as HAWTs. This is because of extra drag that is created when the blade faces into the wind. Also, most VAWTs must be installed on flat ground, and can’t handle steeper slopes that HAWTs could. Another disadvantage is many VAWTs require energy to start because the starting torque is so low that there is usually not enough wind power to start the turbine.

By taking these advantages and disadvantages into consideration, we decided to fundraise for a horizontal axis wind tower. This is mostly because the wind available at the high school is too high up for a VAWT to work. The taller tower of a HAWT is far more reasonable. The energy production of a VAWT is also not as good as that of a HAWT, particularly in our area. Also the price of a HAWT is more reasonable than that of a VAWT. VAWTs may be suitable for some locations and if you’re planning to install a windmill, please consider them carefully. Just because the HAWTs are the most common windmills, a VAWT could be better in your location. The goal is to produce as much energy as possible with wind power and avoid using fossil fuels. If a VAWT is the way to go, then by all means consider it.


About us


The Windplanners are a group of high school students from Maine. Our goal is to install a wind turbine at our school. The turbine will not only reduce energy costs and help reduce global warming but it will also help educate local people and the students at school.


The school was opened in the year 2000. Between 2000 and 2003, the energy use was monitored and the energy costs were far above the projected cost. Between 2004 and 2005, major changes were made to lighting, heating, and automatic controls. In February 2004, the Windplanners group held the first meeting. In September 2005, we made a presentation to the local school board who unanimously supported our request to install a 140-foot meteorological tower at the school. However, because of local ordinances, our request was denied. We appealed it to the zoning board of appeals that October and were granted our request by special an exception to the ordinance. With the help of the University of Massachusetts, the meteorological tower was installed in January 2006. In June 2007, the townspeople voted to change the ordinance to allow the wind turbine to be installed at the school. The meteorological tower was removed in August 2007, after collecting data for over a year.

About the Windmill

We are aiming to build a 140-foot-tall wind turbine at the school. It is a 100 kilowatt wind turbine that should produce anywhere from 80,000 to 150,000 kilowatt hours of energy a year. To put this in perspective, energy costs between $0.15 and $0.19 per kilowatt hour. The wind turbine would save the school anywhere between $12,000 and $28,500 a year! The wind turbine could pay for itself in energy savings for the school in under 16 years! That brings up an important question: How much does the wind turbine cost? The cost for the wind turbine and installation has been estimated at about $450,000. This seems next to impossible to some, but we are positive we can do it. In fact, we are already over 10% of the way there! The wind turbine could be installed as early as summer 2008!

What are the Windplanners actually doing?

We have split into three groups: fundraising, grant writing, and community education.


The fundraising group has come up with several ideas for raising money. Some of these include:

  • Selling compact fluorescent light bulbs
  • Selling items with the Windplanners logo such as: canvas bags, t-shirts, and mugs
  • Showing an environmental movie such as "The 11th Hour" and having a discussion
  • Having a guest speaker
Grant Writing

The grant writing group has already sent out several grant requests and received one substantial grant! They are hard at work researching and writing more grants and just bought a calendar to help them track deadlines.

Community Education

The community education group recently made another presentation to the school board to give updates, particularly about the cost of the wind turbine, which was increased. The school board was very receptive and optimistic. This group also made a presentation to the local Rotary Club. They are working on setting up more presentation dates including one at the local library. Also, a website is in the making and should be up and running as soon as possible. Another community education project is this blog, which will be updated twice a month.

Why is wind power important?

Global warming is a serious issue that desperately needs to be addressed. Global warming is not an imminent threat. It's an immediate threat that we should have addressed long ago. By now, temperatures have risen much higher. The arctic ice is melting rapidly, and there could be no ice in the region as soon as 2040! Humans are putting so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and plants and oceans can't come close to absorbing it all. In fact, the oceans are nearly saturated with CO2, which will be disastrous because the ocean will no longer be soaking up CO2. Even if all CO2 emissions were stopped right now, we wouldn't see effects for a long time. The atmosphere takes a lot of time to repair itself. Why should we do this, then? You might ask. It won't affect me. Perhaps it won't. Perhaps you'll be gone by the time many changes happen. But what about your kids? Grandkids? Great grandkids? The truth is, they might not be alive if we continue to ravage our planet.

Wind power is very important. Fossil fuels such as oil and coal are used to provide electricity. However, when they are burned, massive amounts of CO2 are released into the atmosphere. There are two options: One is to go completely off fossil fuels. That would mean no cars, no heat, no light, no electricity, no Internet, no telephone, no oven, no washing machine, no factories, no mass production, no showers, no running water, no refrigeration... the list goes on. Nothing in your life would be the same. Another option is to change from fossil fuels to alternative, clean energies. Yes, these alternative fuels are inefficient compared to fossil fuels, but there has been little study into ways of improving their productivity. Wind power is an option. In fact, England is planning on British homes being 100% wind powered by 2020.

What's so great about wind power?
  • It is 100% clean -- no emissions whatsoever
  • Wind turbines produce 17 to 39 times the amount of energy needed for its manufacture, construction, operation and decommissioning
  • Well-placed wind turbines have no effect on birds (ours will not disrupt bird migration patterns)
  • Wind turbines generate electricity up to 99% of the time as opposed to solar, which can only produce electricity when there is sunlight
  • Wind is free!
  • Much more!
Why in Maine?

We are in an ideal location. Wind turbines produce the most energy on cold, wintry days. Also, there are no houses near the location which will eliminate noise disturbances, shadow flicker, and other possible problems. As for their aesthetics, that is a personal opinion. Some think them beautiful and majestic, but some think they're ugly and ruin the landscape. But you should ask, "Would you rather have a power plant? Would you rather have smog?"

What can I do?

If you want to contact us, email us at windplanners@gmail.com.

We always appreciate funding and publicity!