Will A Residential Wind Turbine Work for Me?

Wind Resource Evaluation Systems

Homeowners interested in installing a home wind turbine will encounter conflicting advice on the best way to determine wind quality at the proposed site. Many sources suggest collecting a year's worth of wind data, and recommend purchasing a "wind resource evaluation system."

These kits, which can run from $500 to $5,000, will include an anemometer (a series of rotating cups that measure wind speed), which feeds data into a computer, where the information is stored and analyzed. A telescoping pole mounted on a tripod is used to place the anemometer at increasing heights above the ground.

Beyond being daunted by the complexity and time-consuming nature of such a project, most homeowners considering a $6,000 to $45,000+ turbine system are not interested in spending $5,000 just to find out if wind energy can be collected at their site. At the same time, however, they cannot just simply assume they have adequate wind. Unless the site has steady winds of 10 mph or greater, that expensive turbine will be useless.

Basic Wind Turbine  Requirements

Since most homeowners will be using a grid-tied system, one in which the turbine supplies part of the home's power, with back-up power drawn from the local electric utility grid, several system "goals" should be considered:

- Turbines can reduce your electrical bill from 50% to 90%. How low on that scale are you willing to go?

- How much do you pay for your electricity per kWh? In order to see a return on your investment, you must pay at least 10 cents. (In 2010, the national average price per kWh was 12 cents.)

- The minimum level of acceptable wind is 10 mph. Newer, low-velocity wind turbines are becoming available, and existing, small, roof-mounted units can shave 10% of your electric bill. Will these lesser goals suit your purposes if the wind quality at your site is poor?

In order to proceed, you must have at least an acre of land. Your turbine will stand between 85 and 150 feet in height and must be secured by guide wires. It will need to be at least 250 feet from adjacent structures. The best sites are on hills or lake and sea shores, but any area with few surrounding obstacles to generate wind turbulence can be considered.

Be prepared to discover that your location will have completely unique wind patterns. While a general pattern of wind encircles the planet, regional and local circulations give each site its own wind signature. Seasonally, winds begin to increase in force and duration in autumn and will continue to blow through the winter and spring before falling to their lowest levels in summer. Almost any site, however, will experience afternoon wind peaks regardless of the time of year.

Finding A Professional To Perform a Site Assessment

Every wind turbine company will have a professional wind assessor on staff or will have contact information for freelancers in the field to perform a site assessment.  The assessor will look at regional wind maps for your area as well as review annual climate data going back for several years. Simply calculating averages, however, will not answer the riddle's of your site's unique characteristics.

Wind flows over and around adjacent structures, creating areas of inexplicable calm, or vortexes of wind turbulence. All can affect a turbine's ability to function efficiently. The assessor will want to stand on the exact site where the proposed turbine will be placed to get an idea of the "lay of the land."

He will attempt to choose as "normal" a day as possible and will not conduct his survey when a storm is threatening. He will use an anemometer to first take a ground speed reading, but this is only a baseline measurement. The anemometer will be raised to a height of as much as 150 feet, with periodic readings taken along the way. You may be surprised to find how much wind measurements vary as the anemometer is raised.

Don't Proceed Without A Site Assessment

Never proceed with a residential wind turbine project until you have secured a favorable wind assessment and cleared the structure with the local zoning board and your homeowners association, if applicable. Assuming that you do get the go-ahead for a residential wind power system, click here to keep reading to learn how much various wind turbine systems cost.

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2 Responses to “Will A Residential Wind Turbine Work for Me?”

  1. Home Wind Energy: Advantages and Disadvantages Says:

    […] Residential Wind Turbines: Who Should Invest in Wind Energy? Will A Residential Wind Turbine Work for Me? […]

  2. Power Produced From Home Wind Turbine Says:

    […] should not, however, necessarily discourage homeowners from getting a site assessment and an estimate of potential energy production for their unique location. Even a small, roof-mounted turbine in a marginally suitable location can […]

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