10 February 2007 | Emerald Bay
If you are in a beautifully quiet anchorage and you see one of these (see photo) pull in next to you, move. No "these" is not the mono hull. No "these" is not a Canadian flaged vessel. "these" is the old AirX Wind generator. They are famously loud.
Wind generators are not all bad though, and to be fair the new Air X units have gotten quieter. Many wind generators are unpleasantly noisy however. One of the great things about sailing is the peace and quiet while under sail and while at anchor. A loud wind generator can really shatter the serenity. Wind generators can also be dangerous (consider a tall person standing up on the coming just underneath the blades in a strong breeze...). Many are failure prone because they provide poor control for over charging in high winds, some are susceptible to corrosion, some use brushes (which can generate radio interference) and other parts that wear out. Some don't get going until the wind is 15 knots and then they shut down as soon as it blows over 25.
After inquiring after many cruising wind generators in various anchorages I have come to believe that modern wind generators do not need to be noisy to produce great power. Amp Air and a few other brands actually pride themselves on their low decibel output. Getting high current, quiet and reliable power is not easy to do but there are some products offering a fair set of trade offs.
Our solar panels are great for generating clean quiet power. We have 7 x 75 Watt panels and we can run our fridge and freezer 24x7 without starting the motor indefinitely, as long as we don't get a lot of overcast weather. Our fridge and freezer run about 5 amps (rounding up) and have about a 50% duty cycle. So we typically burn 5 amp hours per hour, or about 80 per night. The 525 Watt solar array peaks at a little over 20 amps mid day and tapers off on both sides which easily makes up for the daytime load and overnight draw. Run a cloud or low flying plane overhead though and the current vanishes.
While the fridge is great, we like to use other electrical things as well and, contrary to popular belief, it is not always sunny down here (almost always though). When it is overcast it is often windy. When it is dark it is windy sometimes. When the sails are up and shading the panels it is definitely windy. A good wind generator seems like the perfect complement to a solar array for a lot of reasons.
Amp Air and Fourwinds II are well liked by their owners and have some of the more desirable features, including quiet operation. KISS wind generators also have a good reputation and they are in Trinidad. I think we'll stop in to discuss matters with them when we get down there.