Wind Power for Dummies A Review by Paul Gipe

By Paul Gipe

Wind Power for Dummies by Ian Woofenden is the mass-market, mainstream book on small wind turbines that the industry has long sought as a measure of respectability. Small wind has arrived when the wildly popular Dummies’ series takes up the topic. Dummies books, and this one will be no exception, are the kind that one finds shelves of when entering Barnes & Nobles, America’s big box book store. Small wind has indeed arrived.

Woofenden, a long-time editor at Home Power Magazine, fortunately doesn’t fall for the temptation posed by his entry into big-league publishing and sugar coat the technology. This is a real book by a real author who lives, breathes, and writes about the subject. He doesn’t pull any punches.

As an outspoken proponent of safety around wind turbines-of any size-I found Woofenden’s Dummy book particularly valuable because of its emphasis on safety. This is a topic that other writers often shy away from. Woofenden tackles the delicate subject head on and with good humor to boot.

Woofenden, a professional arborist, offers sage advice when he recommends that all towers have a full-time, fall-arrest system in place. He says he simply won’t climb a tower without one present. That’s about as clear a statement as a writer can make. But his statement is more significant than that. Woofenden is stepping out from the norm of his small wind brethren by calling for fall-arrest systems in an industry that has widely ignored these devices in the USA for nearly 30 years.


Disclosure: Woofenden applauds my work in the acknowledgements section of the book–for which I am grateful. A pat on the back is always welcome.

As in other Dummies books and certainly as found in the pages of Home Power Magazine, Woofenden uses homespun aphorism to drive home his point. One such example is his advice about “thinking before you act”.

“Wearing a hard had doesn’t mean a lot if you don’t have much to protect in the first place. Your number one piece of safety gear is on your shoulders. You need brains, determination, knowledge, and experience to be safe.”

More sound advice in his recommendation to use “baby talk” when working on a tower. “Before I do something, I say what I’m going to do: ‘I’m going to move my lanyard up above these rungs next; I’ll need you to lift your right foot’,” he explains in another passage.

“Ten Wind-Energy Mistakes,” like safety, is another valuable Woofenden contribution to the literature on small wind. Harking back to his mentor Mick Sagrillo, one of Woofenden’s top ten mistakes is “Using too Short a Tower”.

Woofenden will not endear himself to “inventors,” crackpots, and hustlers when he warns readers against using “creative” wind turbine designs. These are the wacky ideas that appear regularly on the Internet and no doubt drive serious editors, such as Woofenden, batty answering each new wave of queries from the true believers.

Wind Power was constrained by the format of the successful Dummies’ series. The books, which became famous for deciphering the usage of computer software, use few graphics. Wind energy is a very visible technology and there are a myriad designs and as many different applications that call out for photos or illustrations. The illustrations used are simple, clear, and straightforward-the hallmark of Home Power Magazine. The graphic illustrating the “basic parts of a turbine” is particularly good.

And it’s hard to beat the humorous comics that were part of the Dummies’ books recipe for success. If anything, the book could have used more of them.

A minor quibble is Wind Power For Dummies’ reliance on the English system of measurements-a system that the English themselves don’t use. It’s understandable in the context. The Dummies books are targeted toward the mass market in the US and that leaves out the Canadians and anyone else who uses the metric system.

With the Dummies’ marketing prowess at his back, Woofenden stands a good chance of taking his message of caution and thoroughness in developing a safe, productive, and profitable small wind turbine installation to a bigger market than other small wind books have done before.

For only $22, the book is not only a steal but a welcome addition to the wind power library.

Wind Power for Dummies by Ian Woofenden, John Wiley & Sons, 2009, paper, 384 pages, US $21.99, ISBN: 978-0-470-49637-4.