A wind turbine is a device that uses rotary blades to collect kinetic wind energy. For wind generation, a generator then converts the wind energy into electric power.
There are two main types of wind turbines. A horizontal axis wind turbine (HAWT) has its generator and main rotor shaft at the top of a tower and is the most common type for wind power generation. The other less common type is the vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) which has an "eggbeater" shape. The VAWT turbine has a vertically arranged rotor shaft.
In most cases you will need wind data for one or more years to determine if there is enough wind and how consistent the winds are in your area. Mountain locations and areas with hills will likely need additional wind data. The U.S. Department of Energy has a large amount of wind data that has already been collected for many areas.
The size of your wind turbine is based on your specific household power requirements and amount of wind in your area. Wind turbine size can vary, but 3 to 10 kilowatt (kW) units are among the most popular for residential applications.
In the case of a large scale turbine, 1 MW or larger, 100+ acres per turbine is common. For small turbines, depending on the height of the generator, at least one acre of land is required and about 250 feet from buildings or other structures that could block wind and cause turbulance. Anything that blocks the natural flow of wind could cause turbulence and decrease turbine efficiency.
A roof-mounted system is not as efficient as a ground system. This is because a roof mounted turbine does not allow for a natural flow of air and would cause turbulence leading to a less efficient wind turbine.
Residential wind turbines are designed to last from 15 to 20+ years, depending on the manufacturer and design.
Small residential wind generators are designed to last throughout the lifespan of the turbine with little maintenance. Dealers typically will build any maintenance into the initial price of the unit.
Noise is a common complaint with residential wind turbines and caused by the sound of the blades passing through the air. The drivetrain can cause noise as well but is less common in small turbines. Although not very common there are some complaints of wind turbines affecting television reception. These issues should be discussed when obtaining your system from your selected vendor.
Your system will need to draw power from another source when there is little or no wind. The most common and affordable way is to tie into the electric utility grid where you will use power generated from your utility during times when there is no wind power. Another option is to make use of a back-up generator.
Interconnection is the process of connecting your wind generator to the utility grid in order to get power during times when your wind generator is not providing enough power to meet your energy demands. To connect to the grid, typically at the point of service, some additional components will be needed including a DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) power inverter, disconnect switches, distribution panels and a meter. Your installer will be able to determine how these components will be integrated into your system design. And it is always best to contact your local power provider when considering the installation of wind power for your home.
Renewable projects produce two products: 1) Energy (kWh) and 2) environmental attributes (EAs). The EAs include the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), as well as any applicable carbon credits, or other benefits identified in the future. These two products can be separated in some instances.
Retail net metering allows an individual or business to self-supply a portion of their energy needs from on-site generation. In some cases, if all of the energy being produced at your home or business will not be used onsite, it can then flow back onto the grid rather than being wasted. The excess power can then count as a credit towards your energy bill. The value of each credit will be determined by your local electric co-op. In some cases a meter will be installed to measure the flow of energy in each direction.
One option is to install a disconnect switch, so, if an outage were to occur your wind generator could still supply your home with the electricity they are generating. Without this switch, the wind system in question will be shut off. The switch is also necessary to maintain the safety of linemen working on the outage. Another option is to make use of a back-up generator on site. Make sure you discuss this with your local utility or an installer.
To check if there are any rebates or incentives that you may qualify for, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE).
Your installer should be aware of most of the permits required for a residential wind generator but it is a good idea to look over your local zoning ordinances, building codes and state laws.
Many factors have to be considered when calculating payback time. The initial cost of purchasing and installing the wind generator will greatly depend on the size and type of wind turbine. You will need to calculate your home's energy requirements and estimate electricity prices during the life of your system. There are many online sources that calculate an estimated paypack time but it's best to discuss your individual wind generator costs and payback times with your installer/dealer.
Most importantly if you are connecting to the utility grid you will need to sign an interconnection agreement with your local electric utility. The agreement specifies terms and conditions of your system being connected to the grid as well as connection specifications and permits required. Some homeowners associations (HOAs) may also have agreements for connecting a residential wind generator.
There are several potential damages that could require repairs. The majority of the claims are mechanical, or from lightning, fire, storms or electrical failures. Most wind turbines are made to withstand winds of up to 120 mph, however, severe weather can throw debris and extreme winds can damage your wind turbine.
Although wind generators are built to withstand most weather situations some severe turbine damage can sometimes result from extreme winds, debris, or mechanical failures. Many homeowners insurance providers will cover your generator for these types of damages but it's best to discuss your particular coverage with your agent.
The American Wind Energy Association offers a list of small turbine and equipment manufacturers.
Please visit Tri-State's Renewable Energy page for the latest wind projects.
As a wholesale power supplier, Tri-State does not serve retail consumers and therefore does not have programs in place to directly assist individuals with the up-front cost of a wind generator installation. However, through its renewable energy program, Tri-State enables and offers incentives to its member co-ops to develop local renewable resources. You will need to contact your local electric co-op to learn how those programs can be applied to your project.