So you've seen these beautiful wind turbines dotting the horizon, you've felt a stiff breeze at your house, and you think to yourself, "I want wind power!" Good for you for looking into this clean power technology! Have you read Paul Gipe's book on WIND ENERGY BASICS, 2nd Edition? After reading, your first step will be to identify if wind power is appropriate for your location.Read more +
While there are several factors that influence this, some basic guidelines to consider are: space, wind speed and the amount of energy (kwh per month) that you are trying to produce. Ideally, you want to have at least half an acre for the turbine. Remember that raising and lowering 60 foot Wind Turbine Towers requires some serious space! Next, you'll want to be sure that the average wind speed in your area is at least 10 mph. Anything less and you won't be producing much (if any) power. Most wind turbines start producing power in winds of 7 mph or greater. Not sure of the wind speed where you are? Bear in mind that the wind speed at your location can be drastically different than what is shown in the general map. You may want to invest in Wind Data Instruments & Control Boxes. An anemomter is a device that measures wind speed right at your location.
Locating your wind turbine: The height of your wind turbine will dramatically affect performance. Your wind turbine should be at least 30 feet higher than any obstruction within 300 feet. That means 30 feet above any buildings; any tree tops; anything that will affect the turbulence of the air as it hits the turbine. If you are going to invest in installing a wind turbine, you'll want to do it the right way. Since wind speed is directly related to tower height: the higher the tower, the more energy you will produce. Absolutely check with local building and zoning codes to see if they have any height or other zoning restrictions in your area. Do this before purchasing! Check this article out: Small Wind Electric Systems: A U.S. Consumer's Guide to learn if a small wind turbine is right for you.
What size turbine do I need? Now let's talk energy production. Many wind turbines use numbers in their names: the Whisper 500, Air Breeze 200; Bergey 1000 watt turbine. We are going to ask you to disregard that number. That number in the name often represents the maximum instantaneous power production (in watts) at a very high wind speed. So theoretically, the wind turbine could produce that amount of power momentarily during a gust, but it is unlikely that the winds will be sustained at that speed, so basing energy calculations in kilowatt hours (kwh) on that instantaneous power number, might be misleading. Instead, review the graph that each manufacturer offers, which shows the average monthly energy output (kwh) as a function of average wind speed. This will offer a more accurate picture of what you can expect the wind turbine to produce in a month; and from there you can compare that production to the monthly usage (in kwh) on your electrical bill. For example the Southwest Wind Power Air Breeze Wind Turbine Land 160W 12V should produce about 20-25 kwh per month with average wind speeds of 10-12 mph. The Bergey XL.1 Wind Turbine (1kW, 24V) is reported to produce about 115-195 kwh per month at similar average wind speeds. The Southwest Wind Power Skystream 3.7 240V or 208V Split Phase should produce about 200-400 kwh per month in the same wind speed range. As the energy production increases, so does the cost of the wind turbine, and the complexity of the installation. Please note: an Air X or an Air Breeze turbine (about $600 each) will not power your entire home!
What other components do I need? The Wind Turbines (Electric) are generally sold by themselves. Wind Turbine Towers are sold separately and are specific for the turbine. This tower could be anywhere from 30 feet up to 100 feet tall. (Remember, the higher the tower, the more energy your turbine will produce.) While typically you can buy the pole for the tower (in sections) locally, you will want to purchase the manufacturer's tower "kit" which includes the couplings, proper length wires and hardware. In the case of the Skystream turbine, the manufacturer actually recommends a monopole, which is one long pole that does not require couplings to join the sections. In addition to the turbine and the tower, you will also need an inverter and batteries as well as appropriate overcurrent protection and disconnects. These additional components would be comparable to the main components in a solar electric system. With the exception of the Skystream wind turbine, most turbines do require batteries, even if you plan to tie into the utility grid.
Thoughts on installation and maintenance. Wind systems are not for the faint of heart. They can require large equipment and even a crane to raise the tower. The rotor diameter of the Skystream, for example, is 12 feet! If you are unsure if you would like to install the turbine yourself, please consult a professional installer. Furthermore, as any other mechanical device, the turbines themselves require regular maintenance. This means that you will be lowering the tower at least once a year for inspection. Most manufacturer warranties are 1-5 years, and with proper care and maintenance, your equipment can last 10 years or more. If you've done all your research and still need help, please give us a call so that we can help make recommendations for a complete and safe wind system.