For people thinking of installing domestic wind turbines, I have to tell you something important you must consider before you go any further.
A recent UK report has just changed the rules of the game by releasing some surprising findings about their effectiveness.
First the bad news: it has been found that urban areas are generally a bad place for a domestic turbine. This is because home wind generators are very sensitive to turbulence and therefore work at their optimum in open spaces i.e. away from built up areas.
Up until now, the potential of residential wind turbines in urban areas has been over estimated according to the study published by the Energy Saving Trust (EST). This explains why many city folk who’ve installed their own turbine have been disappointed by the feeble amount of electricity produced.
Now for the good news: the EST also found that home wind generators on the whole have more potential than previously thought. In the UK, a massive 800,000 homes could be powered in this way if fully exploited. This doesn’t include large scale wind farms; just small residential turbines.
As an avid enthusiast of domestic wind turbines, I was very exited by these findings. In recent years, wind power has been down played as not making economic sense. While this may be true in cities, in locations where the wind is right this simply isn’t true.
The Guardian newspaper covered the story well:-
”Generally, pole-mounted in areas of good, clean air with unobstructed air flow gave better than expected performance,” said Green. Those in the most exposed rural parts of Scotland gave the best results, generating in excess of 18,000 KWh (or £2,300 of electricity) and save 7,500kg of carbon dioxide a year.”
The full article can be found at: – http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/08/domestic-wind-turbines
The lesson learnt here is crucial if you want to know just how much electricity you could potentially save. Before you make up your mind whether to get a turbine or not, you first need to seek expert advice.
For UK locations, the EST have launched a wind speed prediction tool on their website: http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Can-I-generate-electricity-from-the-wind-at-my-home
US residents can contact the American Wind Energy Association site: – http://www.awea.org/faq/wwt_potential.html#How%20much%20energy
Although domestic wind turbines can be made at home for a fraction of the cost, the real reason why you should consider the option is for the enjoyment. It’s relatively easy to create your own turbine that will generate a little electricity, however there is an art to having it powering a significant proportion of your home.
“Look for independence forum sites of hobbyists dealing with DIY windmill projects or product review sites that cater for the wind power system market. Most of the time, you will be able to find valuable tips and advice. Post questions about your doubts on these to help yourselves make informed decision. Doing so will also help you join the support group should you face problem with your windmill power system in future.”
For those who are considering building or installing domestic wind turbines, I have gathered a few interesting nuggets from experts around the web.
1. Most home wind turbines don’t eliminate the need for your power company.
This is a common misconception, but without any energy efficiency measures, the average household will still have to pay for electricity. However, it is still worth the effort so long as you have done your homework. You might even want to consider dramatically reducing your electricity needs by installing a wood burning stove to heat your home.
2. When surveyed, 49% of turbine owners believed they’d reduced their electricity bills, but 39% hadn’t.
This can often put people off installing a turbine, but really it just underlines the importance of doing thorough research before you start. Wind turbines are very sensitive to the quality of the wind, not just the strength. They only really work when they are positioned where there is a good fast flow of air with little turbulence. This brings me on to the next point….
3. As a general rule, you should install your turbine at least 30 feet above any obstacle within a 300 foot radius.
I found this tip on the Bergey website (a turbine manufacturer). It’s well worth reading the whole article as part of your pre-installation research: – http://www.bergey.com/School/Primer.html
4. DIY enthusiasts have build their own domestic wind turbines for less than $200.
This is possible since many of the components are available from normal hardware stores. One of the most expensive parts of a turbine is the generator, but old DC motors of eBay work surprisingly well with a fraction of the cost.
5. A poll showed that 59% of turbine owners said their turbines had been reliable.
Many domestic wind turbines on the market are not up to the task. If they have not been engineered properly they can wear out prematurely or even be destroyed in high winds. With so much money at stake, it pays to find a reputable manufacturer that offers a long warranty. If possible try to get a 5 year warranty as these tend to be constructed of higher quality components.
There are small 3 to 4kw turbines available. How many are needed to power avg house?
There is no simple answer. When the wind is calm they may only produce 0.5 Kw. How much energy storage, if any, would you provide? How windy is the site? Would the occupants be willing to modify their schedules to make use of energy when available? An electric stove with oven can use 6 Kilowatts or more.
If Homeowners and Small Biz used Renewable Energy and owned their Power would overall Energy needs be reduced?
If homeowners and small business invested in solar and residential wind turbines, it would not only create jobs but reduce the need for any more power plants than we have already.
yes, but the ROI does not justify it
both on small scale and large scale
The first electricity generating wind turbine, was a battery charging machine installed in July 1887 by Scottish academic, James Blyth to light his holiday home in Marykirk, Scotland. Some months later American inventor Charles F Brush built the first automatically operated wind turbine for electricity production in Cleveland, Ohio. Although Blyth’s turbine was considered uneconomical in the United Kingdom electricity generation by wind turbines was more cost effective in countries with widely scattered populations. In Denmark by 1900, there were about 2500 windmills for mechanical loads such as pumps and mills, producing an estimated combined peak power of about 30 MW. The largest machines were on 24-metre towers with four-bladed 23-metre diameter rotors. By 1908 there were 72 wind-driven electric generators operating in the US from 5 kW to 25 kW. Around the time of World War I, American windmill makers were producing 100,000 farm windmills each year, mostly for water-pumping. By the 1930s, windmills for electricity were common on farms, mostly in the United States where distribution systems had not yet been installed. In this period, high-tensile steel was cheap, and windmills were placed atop prefabricated open steel lattice towers.
A forerunner of modern horizontal-axis wind generators was in service at Yalta, USSR in 1931. This was a 100 kW generator on a 30-metre tower, connected to the local 6.3 kV distribution system. It was reported to have an annual capacity factor of 32 per cent, not much different from current wind machines. In the fall of 1941, the first megawatt-class wind turbine was synchronized to a utility grid in Vermont. The Smith-Putnam wind turbine only ran for 1,100 hours before suffering a critical failure. The unit was not repaired because of shortage of materials during the war.
The first utility grid-connected wind turbine to operate in the U.K. was built by John Brown & Company in 1951 in the Orkney Islands.
Why would anyone say Solar PV isn’t cost effective when in CA you can lease for the current cost of your bill?
Are people seriously misinformed about Solar PV and small residential wind turbines? Have you ever gotten any estimates? In 21 States the power company buys your power, and supplies you power at night. As your bill goes up you save. How is that not cost effective. Why do people cling to misinformation and refuse to accept renewable energy and toss off the yolk of Oil, step by step?
Solar is an excellent option in California. But California gets a great deal of sun.
In Pacific Northwest, though, it will take many, many years for a homeowner to recover the cost of solar panels in energy savings. And likewise, in the most populous areas of the country, it isn’t windy enough for people to recover the cost of wind turbines in a reasonable amount of time. And really, by the time people recover the cost, the equipment will need to be replaced.
I think that large-scale renewable energy is the solution, not small-scale. Building large solar plants in the southwest to convert water into hydrogen could fuel all of our cars. Building wind turbines off-shore could fuel all our homes. But power companies are going to be needed to do those things.
I’m only 16 now, but I plan on my home being as green as I can make it when I am old enough to even have a home. I want to know how much it costs to actually get a wind turbine, or make one, etc. How exactly I would hook it up to my house, how tall it has to be, how much space it needs, all that kind of stuff. Any additional information would be greatly appreciated. Anything else I need to know about wind turbines would be great! Thanks!
Hey Chris, good for you getting involved in this. About 12 years ago we looked into wind and solar power for our home. We used to have frequent power outages and just wanted a reliable backup source. Well today our home is completely powered by the wind and sun, we heat with wood, solar and propane, heat water with solar and propane and collect rainwater.
When it comes to wind or solar power you have 2 questions to answer. First, how much are you trying to produce. You said, "help power my house?" In this case, any size you are comfortable purchasing and installing will help. If you want to run everything most of the time like we do, then you have some more math to do. The second question is, "Do I want a stand alone system that can operate without grid power, or just produce some power to dump into the grid." This is important. We had a stand alone system for years, meaning if we produced too much for our home and our batteries were full, then the rest was wasted. But it also means if the grid power goes down, we still have power. Grid tied systems need the grid to operate, they use it like a battery. They are less expensive and simpler to install, but cannot operate if the utility company has an outage, they simply shut down. There is a third type system just coming out, a hybrid. It has a battery bank, but ties to the grid at the same time. If the grid fails, it will power your home until the battery runs down. If you have wind or sun, this might be all week. These systems are the most expensive to purchase and operate, and more complicated than the other two, and are less efficient because they use some power keeping the batteries charged all the time.
For most people that want to get started, I recommend they build up a small system first and experiment with it. We did 11 years ago, it had one small panel, a 50 watt size, 4 golf cart batteries, and a 300 watt wind turbine from Southwest Windpower that was designed for a boat. Everything cost us $1,100 USD, and everything except the turbine is still operating today. We use the 12 volt power for kitchen lights, small electronics, like cell phone chargers and flashlights, and a radio and fan. There is a great magazine called Home Power that gets into doing all these things, and it doesn’t cost much to subscribe. They even ran 2 articles on our home, one on our small system, and another on our full sized one several years later. If you subscribe, you can use their online search to look for those articles, search for, "Small System First." There are also some great websites, I will list some below.
As far as building your own wind turbine, it can certainly be done, but look for instructions first. And shy away from the vertical axis types, they look really cool and people say they are better because they can take wind from any direction. Wind only blows one way at a time, and the horizontal units have no problem with this because of thier tail. The real reason is because the vertical units are horribly inefficient. Generally they convert about 5 to 8 % of the incoming wind to electricity, horizontals run closer to 30%, this is why all the power companies are using the horizontal types. Check out Mick Sagrillos article about them in the AWEA website to learn more. Do some more reading, and if you can, get to one of the energy fairs listed in the back of Home Power, we did 12 years ago, and that is how we got here today. Good luck Chris, and take care, Rudydoo
I kinda like both positions actually i have no real preference