How to Put a Wind Turbine in Your Backyard
Many towns and cities are wrestling with the idea of installing wind turbines, or wind farms, in order to generate electricity. Wind power is not new, but the idea of having large-scale industrial turbines across acres of land is. Regardless of the controversy of these wind farms, it may be beneficial to install your own small-scale turbine in your own backyard. In recent years, more and more wind turbines have been popping up, especially in rural areas. How are they doing it? Should you?
Small-scale wind turbines are usually built with a tower-mounted turbine, equipped with a rotor and connected to a magnet alternator. This produces 3-phase AC power, which is an efficient method by which power is distributed. The AC output is usually converted to DC power, and then again to AC power that can be transmitted to the power grid and into your home. If you do opt for a wind turbine, look at the estimated monthly energy production in kWh. There is no industry-wide standard, so you will have to shop around. Related to this is the “swept area,” or the area swept by the rotors. As you’d expect, the bigger the swept area, the more power is potentially generated.
When putting in a wind turbine, height is essential. A tower that is too short does very little good. In fact, according to expert Mick Sagrillo, if you increase the height of your tower from 60 feet to 100 feet, you increase production by up to 344 percent. Make sure your turbine is at least 30 feet higher than the highest object within 300 feet, including trees. The tower typically costs as much as the turbine, so remember to factor this in as well.
Another factor to consider is your town or city’s zoning laws. Can you have structures that tall in your yard? In many places, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, you’ll often hear the opposite. Make sure to check before you invest in a wind turbine, and if the height standard doesn’t allow you to put up a tower that is tall enough, you may be wasting your money.
Free-standing towers and fixed guyed towers have to be climbed to perform maintenance. While this does take up less room than tilt-up towers, climbing in excess of 100 feet is not an attractive idea for many of us. Tilt-ups are popular because they are hinged at the bottom and can be lowered to the ground for maintenance.
Besides the considerations already mentioned, cost is something else to think about. A wind turbine can cost from $8,000 to $12,000, and even more for small-scale production. The amount of power you can generate will depend on the tower, but also on your location. Do you have advantageous wind? Not everyone does, and not everyone is benefited by a wind turbine. By some estimates, it will take about seven years to pay off your turbine if production is good.
Wind turbines may not be for everyone, but being more energy efficient is. If your location is not advantageous for wind power, consider adding solar panels or even insulating your home better and switching to CFLs. Alternative energy sources are important, but even more important is being sure they really help the environment and your budget.