The Lowdown on Wind Power for Homes
There are numerous reasons to utilize the wind as a means of producing energy. In the past few decades, wind power has risen from obscurity to become a global phenomenon, lighting up homes and businesses throughout the world, from the vast fields of China to the New Belgium Brewing facility in Fort Collins, Colorado.
If you’re considering wind energy at your residence, you likely have many questions. For instance, how much does a windmill cost? Where can I find a wind turbine for sale? Just how much power does a wind turbine produce? Do I need to buy a wind turbine kit? How big is a wind turbine for home use?
This guide is designed for those new to wind power technology as well as those curious about adapting a lifestyle that doesn’t rely on the power grid. Wind turbine cost and site considerations are just part of the journey towards clean energy. The following home wind turbine information primarily focuses on grid-tied wind power systems, rather than those off the grid.
From Sailboats to Electricity: The History of the Wind Turbine Generator
Harnessing the wind as an energy source is nothing new — ancient mariners across the globe relied on the wind to push their sailboats. The first recorded use of a small wind turbine cropped up as early as 200 B.C. in China, where windmills pumped water into fields.
Small-scale farmers continued to utilize windmills into the Current Era, refining the technology in order to speed up and simplify food production. The windmill turbine generator traveled from the Middle East to the Netherlands and beyond, and were used to grind corn, wheat, and other grains, as well as pump water.
The windmill generator was brought to the New World sometime in the late 1800s, and American farmers harnessed the ancient methods perfected across the Atlantic. The 20th century, and the electricity revolution fueled by forward-thinking visionaries including Edison and Tesla, would bring new, exciting possibilities for the wind power generator.
The so-called “Energy Crisis” of 1979 jump-started the modern alternative energy revolution, but the world’s first megawatt wind generator was erected and tied to the grid in Castleton, Vermont, in 1941. The 1,250 kilowatt Smith-Putnam Wind Turbine stood at a height of 120 feet, only a few meters taller than today’s recommended home wind turbine apex.
Site Considerations for Home Wind Turbine Kits
There are many factors to consider in regards to residential wind turbine placement, and your home’s geographic location is just the beginning.
The cost of wind energy is not as prohibitive as you might expect. In order for a wind turbine to be both efficient and economically feasible over the long term, it should be installed where the annual average wind speed is over 5 meters/second. Your windmill electric generator will achieve optimal power production when installed above turbulent air, where airflow is smooth and laminar: That is, the wind consistently flows in the same direction.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make during the installation of your residential wind turbine is placing it on a rooftop. Airflow surrounding buildings is often turbulent, resulting in insufficient power production. A rooftop wind generator tends to vibrate slightly during operation, which can damage your structure over time.
Although it may sound counter-intuitive, the presence of consistent, strong winds in a particular location doesn’t necessarily indicate that the site is ideal for wind power collection. Keep in mind that quality is vastly more important than quality where energy production is concerned, and just say no to a rooftop wind turbine.
Your local landscape is of prime importance when you’re considering the installation of a small wind turbine for home. In the U.S., optimal wind power production conditions are found across the Great Plains, with Texas topping the list of wind-producing states, by a wide margin. The Lone Star State, in fact, out-produces all three of the country’s subsequent wind power producers — Kansas, Montana, and Nebraska — combined.
But it was a small town in Missouri that made history as the nation’s first city to be powered completely by wind energy. Rock Port, with a population of just over 1,200, accomplished the feat in June 2011. As of 2017, four more American cities joined Rock Port in the wind power revolution:
- Aspen, Colorado
- Burlington, Vermont
- Kodiak Island, Alaska
- Greensburg, Kansas
Each of these groundbreaking cities meets the minimum requirements for efficient wind generation, boasting prime annual wind speeds and low air turbulence numbers.
How Does a Wind Turbine Generate Electricity?
Today’s wind power generator strongly resembles its wooden ancestors, typically constructed with a few simple components. Grid-tied residential wind turbine kits contain a tower and three rotor blades, and other components may be included.
Your new wind turbine for home generates power almost effortlessly — primarily utilizing spinning rotor blades that power an alternator, which diverts power to a tough magnet. A grid tie controller is included in nearly every wind turbine kit on the market. The device ensures that your home stays connected even if your home wind generator isn’t drawing power.
To calculate the estimated annual wind production at your residence, you’ll need to determine the rotor diameter of your micro wind turbine. Then, use the following equation:
Energy [kWh] = 2.09 X Diameter2 [m] X Wind3 [m/s]
A typical single-family home uses about 8,000 kWh of energy per year. To achieve that level of wind power production in an average wind speed of 11 mph, a 6 kWh turbine should be sufficient. Calculate your household’s typical energy needs using information from past power bills in order to determine the output you’ll need from a wind turbine.
The unfortunate truth is that many locations are not ideal for the production of wind power. To determine if wind generation is a viable option for your home, you’ll need to put in the research. Gather annual wind speed statistics from your local airport, along with meteorological data.
Even if the wind conditions in your area meet the minimum recommended requirements, there’s still your property to consider in regards to wind turbine cost. Trees, houses, and outbuildings all impede airflow, and even a small wind turbine should be installed at least 500 feet from the nearest structure.
As for wind turbine height, bigger is typically better. Experts recommend a minimum turbine tower height of 60 feet, plus rotor blade length, a grand total of about 100 feet from the ground.
Horizontal Versus Vertical Wind Turbine
Both the traditional windmill generator used in early American food production and the massive metal behemoths that dot the foothills of Altamont Pass in Central California, an expansive array of nearly 5,000 turbines spanning 50,000 acres, are examples of Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWTs).
Horizontal turbines are outfitted with rotors that resemble a propeller, rotating on an axis that’s parallel to the ground. In today’s alternative energy market, nearly every wind power generator designed for on-grid connection rotate on a horizontal axis.
Automaxx Windmill 600W
The general consensus within the world of wind power is that HAWTs are vastly superior to turbines that rotate vertically. The shape of a Vertical Wind Turbine resembles that of a wire whisk. Two blades rotate around a stationary vertical shaft, perpendicular to air flow.
Manufacturers of VAWTs tout the superior power production capability of vertical rotation, even in turbulent conditions, and claim that vertical turbines are much less noisy than their horizontal counterparts. Real-world data, however, indicates otherwise; even the best home wind turbine is going to generate noise.
VEVOR Wind Turbine
Further, vertical blade rotation causes excess wind resistance, negatively impacting the turbine’s performance and reliability. In your search for the optimal residential wind turbine for sale, don’t be fooled by false promises regarding the capability of vertical-axis turbines.
How Much Does a Wind Turbine Cost?
Powering your home with wind is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint along with your energy bill. But most wind turbines carry a hefty price tag: The equipment itself will set you back about $5,000 per kilowatt, meaning that you can expect to shell out about $40,000 for an 8 kWh system . You also need to factor in the cost of installation.
Self-installation of your wind turbine will likely save you money, but it’s not a good idea for most homeowners. Even if you’re a dedicated do-it-yourself person, you don’t want to risk constructing the turbine incorrectly. The turbine will also have to be tied to the local power grid, a job that’s best left to the professionals.
Expect an installation cost ranging between about $8,000 to $25,000, depending on the size of your property and the turbine itself, as well as the distance from the turbine to the power grid.
Finding the Right Wind Turbine for Sale
Once you’ve determined that your residence is an ideal candidate for wind turbine installation, it’s time to weigh your options. And since home wind turbine kits are a major investment, you should avoid making a hasty decision.
Read customer reviews, compare prices and specs between each wind generator kit, and don’t hesitate to contact wind turbine distributors directly with any questions about system performance, size, or estimated output. Questions to ask include, “how much energy does a wind turbine produce?”
In addition, check for certification: All wind turbines sold in the U.S. must be approved by the Small Wind Certification Council.
Wind turbine kits for home use range in capacity, size, price, and included extras. Minimalist home wind turbine kits, ideal for smaller homes, often contain only a basic turbine and grid tie controller. Other home turbine kits are packed with accessories and amenities, boasting speeds of up to 125 mph, a lifetime guarantee, and/or the superior power of a permanent magnet rotor alternator.
No matter the reason you’ve made the switch to wind energy to power your home, you have myriad options at your fingertips. To ensure optimal wind turbine efficiency and a quick return of your investment, familiarize yourself with the perks as well as the limitations of this energy-saving technology. Welcome to the clean energy revolution!