Wind Power For Homes - Pipedream or Precious Asset?
Wind power for homes need not be a pipe-dream, providing you have a thorough understanding of all the Wind Power Facts
Most people are familiar with wind power on the grand scale of wind farms feeding power into a national grid. You know they work. However, when it comes to wind power for homes and owning your own wind turbine then we are suddenly confronted with a whole lot of information to absorb and decisions to make.
So let's start with the assumption that you are interested in reducing your energy bills by using a wind turbine to help in powering your home.
If you don't really know how much energy you are using then simply get out a year's worth of bills – say electricity bills for our purposes – and add up the total in Kilowatt-hrs and take note of the price you are being charged for each Kilowatt-hr used. If you live in the USA you will probably have a total of something like 12,000 KW-hrs at an average cost of 12.5 cents per kw-hr. These figures will vary considerably from State to State and between different suppliers.
So, following on from our example, you have an annual bill of $1,500. Now you can reduce that with some careful conservation measures around your home. To get more information on how to do that, visit our Home Energy Savings page.
However, you'd really like to eat into that total a bit more by using some wind power. So what can you do? Is wind power for homes a realistic option?
Let”s assume that you now have a good grasp of the wind power facts. So let's look at the key issues as they apply to wind turbines for homes.
If you live in a rural area then you will probably have the room for a wind turbine. The location has to be on a pole or tower because height is what really counts. The turbine has to be totally clear of any trees, buildings or other obstructions so that you get clean wind and you only get that when your turbine is in the clear. By the way - don't be tempted to put it on the roof of your house - read our Rooftop Wind Power page to find out why.
As far as the height of your turbine is concerned you probably need to think of at least 25 meters (82 feet) and maybe higher, depending on your situation. As you can imagine, this adds considerably to your costs. Get more information on this by visiting our wind power costs page.
If you live in an urban area you have considerable problems to overcome if you want to have a wind turbine installed that is going to contribute significantly to reducing your energy bill.
For starters you are going to have a space problem – where are you going to put it? As already mentioned – forget the roof! Once you go to your yard then you have the problem of having sufficient space to be clear of obstructions to the wind. Some experts advise that you need about an acre of ground to make it feasible and that is unlikely in most urban settings.
“Well, I'll go up”, you say. Not so fast. In all probability there will be height restrictions imposed by local authorities. You also have your neighbors to think about as they may well object to having a 30 meter tower with a turbine on top, close to their house.
Already, you will be getting the picture about the difficulties of having wind power for homes in urban areas.
However, there are other issues as well.
Wind turbines can be noisy depending on design and wind speed and excessive noise will not endear you to your neighbors, quite apart from any inconvenience to yourself. The Small Wind Certification Council(SWCC) (opens in a new window) rates turbines on a range of factors, including noise.
The standard they use for noise is as follows - Rated Sound Level is the sound pressure level (dBA) not exceeded by the wind turbine 95% of time at a distance of 60 meters from rotor with a hub height annual average wind speed of 5 m/s (11.2 mph).
It is worth noting that a wind turbine, the Bergey Excel 10 – officially certified by the SWCC – has a noise rating that meets the above standard outlined above of 49 decibels(dBA) which is well below the level of normal conversation 60-70dBA.
If you want a wind turbine for your home then look at the sound data provided by the manufacturer and compare it with the decibel comparison chart on our Wind Turbine Noise page.
Wind power for homes inevitably means getting permission to erect a wind turbine from a local or state governing authority, depending on the rules applying in your country. You may find that there are some clear guidelines and codes in place which you will need to follow. On the other hand, wind power is not yet on the agenda of some local authorities and so you may need to break new ground. This may present a few headaches but it does give you the chance to be the catalyst that gets wind power on the agenda.
You will certainly want to keep your neighbors in the loop and enlist their support for your proposal. Experience in a wide variety of areas, world-wide, shows that consulting your neighbors avoids a lot of potential problems later on. If you do a good job you may convert them to the idea as well. Even if they aren't personally interested in wind power for homes, they will appreciate being consulted.
So, let's try and put all this information together in a nice summary form.
If you are serious about a wind turbines for home - your home, then take the following into account:
- If in a rural or semi-rural area you will probably have the space but consider issues such as proximity to the electrical grid. If you site your turbine too far away you will incur additional connection costs and incur some power losses. Your installation contractor can advise you on this. Choose the height of your pole or tower carefully, based on wind data for your area and distances to buildings and other obstructions such as trees. Remember, higher is better!
- In an urban area location is your biggest issue. Avoid roof tops. Be clear of obstructions & buildings and height is the only solution for this.
- Speak to your immediate neighbors and seek their support
- Secure permissions from local planning authorities
- Choose a turbine appropriate for your needs. For help with this, please visit our wind power turbine page
Wind power is here to stay and will continue to grow and develop around the world. Wind power for homes offers exciting possibilities but also poses significant problems for those in urban areas. However, if you choose your wind turbine carefully and take into the account all the relevant facts, then you will have a great asset that will help reduce your power bills.
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