Placing a wind turbine on your property is one way to eliminate costly electric bills. This clean, renewable energy is relatively easy to implement once you pass the initial hurdles of cost, local zoning laws and the possible nay-saying neighbor.
If you want energy that is clean, reliable and, after the initial investment, free, consider adding a wind turbine to your landscape.
Wind turbines work by harnessing the power of wind to create electricity. This method of making energy is considered “clean” because—unlike coal or other energy generators—wind energy does not produce greenhouse gases. But unlike solar energy, which is available to anyone with a roof, wind energy requires something not everyone has: space.
The Bergey Windpower Excel Wind Turbine is 22 feet in diameter and supplies 10 kilowatts of energy, enough to power the average home.
“Our main customers are homeowners that have an acre of property or more and electric bills of at least $150 per month and live in one of the handful of states that offer a robust rebate,” says Mike Bergey, president of Bergey Wind Power Company in Norman, Okla. “In those places, you can recoup your investment in five to 10 years.”
State rebates help shoulder a turbine’s price tag, which ranges from $12,000 to $60,000. In New York, for example, incentives range from $2,400 to $120,000 depending on the size of the turbine you erect. Other states with favorable incentive programs include California, Oregon, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Ohio and Illinois. To learn more about the programs available in your state, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Currently, there is no federal tax incentive for wind power as there is with solar power, but bills proposing such a program are being considered by Congress.
Windward Engineering’s Endurance turbine, which can be used on any property half-acre or larger, is specifically designed to bring wind power to the masses.
Turbines aren’t cheap, but with the money you’ll save on your electric bills they pay for themselves over their minimum-30-year lifetime, says Bergey. Calculating how long it will take you to recoup your investment is complicated and individualized depending on your average energy use, wind speeds in your area, the height and size of your turbine, and your state’s tax incentives. The American Wind Energy Association Small Wind Toolbox can provide some pointers on determining whether wind energy is a feasible financial investment.
But before you do the math, it’s important to understand exactly how these units make electricity.
How Turbines Work Wind is one of the Earth’s most basic energy sources. Think of a sailboat skimming across the water. All that motion is made possible purely by wind energy. That same power can also be used to fuel your furnace and turn on your lights.
The turbine itself consists of a rotor with two or three blades, a generator mounted on a frame and a tail to keep the turbine facing into the wind. The larger the diameter of the rotor, the more energy the turbine produces. The kinetic energy in the wind turns the turbine blades, generating mechanical energy. A generator attached to the turbine then converts that power into electricity. Most turbines have security systems that stop the rotor from spinning if winds become too strong.
The taller your turbine, the more power it will produce because wind speeds increase with distance from the ground. A 100-foot-tall tower is going to produce 25 percent more power than a 60-foot tall one, according to the Department of Energy. Most turbines range from 80 to 140 feet in height, Bergey says.