Wind power as a source of renewable energy for the home is relatively new. In years past, the high cost (in the millions of dollars) of equipment, installation and maintenance made it viable for commercial uses only. But in the past five years, the price of wind power technology has dropped, making it a cost-effective energy source for homes. A 10-kilowatt turbine (the size needed to power a large house) costs between $50,000-$80,000, depending on the tower type, height and the cost of installation, windustry.org reports. There are tax and other incentives that can dramatically reduce this price tag, and DIY homeowners could even install the equipment themselves.
How Wind Power Works
A wind turbine with three blades sits on top of a tower 30 feet or more above the ground and any obstacles, such as trees and buildings. The blades turn in the wind as it blows. Sophisticated turbines can adjust the pitch of the blades to make the most of varying wind conditions.
The turbine is attached to a shaft that runs down the tower connecting to a generator. As the generator turns, electricity is produced and sent to the house and storage batteries. The amount of electricity generated depends on the size of the turbine and generator used.
The first step to matching wind power to your home’s needs is to monitor your home use of electricity for a few weeks. According to Saveonenergy.com, most new homes have smart meters that gather and send usage data to the power company every day. You can record the same information to see how your energy use changes from day to day.
The Feasibility of Wind Energy for the Home
Clean Line Energy says there is enough wind energy in the U.S. to fill 10 times the country’s energy needs. There are nearly 400 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. that build the components needed for a home wind power setup. Wind is available across the country, but there are areas where it is more prevalent. Texas is the “windiest” state in terms of wind power generation, according to American Wind Energy Association. More consistent wind is available in the central U.S. states, away from the coasts.
The top five U.S. states with wind power capacity installed are:
Every state has locations with good wind. California has more than 2,000 wind energy projects, because the wind turbines are located in strategic areas, such as mountaintops along the coastal areas. Small home wind projects can succeed in light-to-moderate wind conditions where the wind energy is used to supplement traditional energy sources.
Installation and Maintenance
You can find many of the wind power components online or at local energy companies. You will need to investigate the necessary permits in your area before you put up a tall tower—there may be height restrictions and guy wires or special nighttime lighting may be required. You may want to work with an installer unless you have experience and the equipment to put up a tall tower.
Regular inspection is required to make sure the turbine, blades, shaft and generator turn freely. In very windy conditions, inspections should be done frequently, including checking that the tower and guy wires meets safety best practices. Again, the right equipment is needed to get to the top of the tower to inspect the turbine and blades.
The Benefits and Incentives of Wind Power
Several states offer tax incentives for using an alternative energy source. The Energy Policy Act implemented in 2005 offers federal tax incentives.
Clean Line Energy states that two percent of the U.S. electricity generation was by wind turbines in 2010. Most of this was commercial, but home-generated wind energy is increasing. Wind turbines generate no pollution, require no fuel other than the wind, and, when well-maintained, can generate years of home electricity. You may not generate all of the electricity you need for your home, but you can definitely make a big dent in your home electric bill.
Have you considered using wind to power your home? Tell us why or why not in the comments.
Photo by Flickr user mrsdkrebs