Wind energy is not new. Since ancient times, civilizations have used windmills to pump water for agriculture and to grind grain. These activities stopped with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Now wind power is regaining popularity as we look for ways to reduce our dependence on oil, use clean energy and lower CO2 emissions.
About five years ago, I took a university class called Energy Basics. One thing I learned is that there are energy maps (US and global) showing what type of energy is best suited for an area. For instance, the northwest US has more water than wind, so hydroelectric power is best for them. Here in the southwest, we have plenty of sun for effective solar power. Some places have little wind or sun and depend on coal.
Residential wind power options in my area
I’ve become more and more interested in wind power over the years. There is a constant breeze at my house, and in March and April, our spring winds can blow 30 mph all day and night. I could probably put up a wind turbine to produce some of my electricity year round. I am up on a ridge with no trees around me, and the neighbor’s houses are not very close. These are criteria a wind installer will analyze in a site visit to determine if conditions are favorable for a turbine.
Through Southwest Windpower, I got a wind energy assessment. By going through this process online, they analyzed my electric usage, neighborhood, wind direction and average wind speed. They made a recommendation for a Skystream 3.7 wind turbine on a 45’ high tower, which would save me $208 a year and offset more than 35,000 pounds of CO2 by generating 1,234 kWh a year. These figures would be more with a higher tower. You can see the differences with the interactive graphs they supply.
Reasons for installing a residential wind power turbine
The only information I didn’t get was the cost of installation of a wind turbine. Return on investment (ROI) is important if that’s what you are looking for. I’m not. My electric bills are so low ($35/month) a turbine wouldn’t pay for itself quickly. I am more interested in generating my own power, using clean energy, and reducing the load on the grid. I could actually put power back into the grid by generating more electricity than I use.
If I combined a wind turbine with solar PV, I could definitely generate all my power and have plenty to sell back to the electric company. The Southwest Windpower assessment for solar and wind together estimated I’d create 139% of what I need! I like that number! I could offset 98,000 pounds of CO2 and save $579 per year. I like those numbers, too.
Get a site analysis before deciding on wind power. It may not work for you at all. If it’s a viable option, there are several good, small residential set-ups.
Types of residential wind power turbines
The Skystream 3.7 can produce up to 400 kWh per month, and it needs 8mph winds to operate. You can install it yourself with some knowledge of electrical work. This will save money and increase your ROI.
The Helix is a vertical axis turbine that needs at least a 14 mph wind to operate. It’s unique shape takes up less space, physically and visually. If neighbors are opposed to a traditional turbine with blades, they might be more amenable to this design. Yes, you may have to ask your neighbors for approval.
Be sure you check with your city about laws, zoning, codes and necessary permits. Contact your local utility for details about connecting your turbine to the grid.
Wind power incentives and availability
There is a 30% tax credit for wind systems smaller than 100 kW that expires December 31, 2016. Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) for local financial incentives. Also check with your electric company for incentives and perhaps financing.
The price of wind power has come down enough now to make it more affordable and with a higher and faster ROI. It’s more available than ever to the average homeowner. Take advantage of it, and use the free wind to power your house!