April 11, 2018
Wind power produces zero emissions, and is, therefore one of the cleanest energy sources. Residential wind power can take different forms; if the conditions are right for a larger turbine, a home could potentially get most (or all) of its energy from the wind.
However, you don’t have to go completely “off-grid” with wind power. Residential wind turbines may work as supplemental power sources. They can lower a home’s dependence on the grid, and therefore reduce energy consumption.
Property owners may also be able to use wind-powered devices for other uses. For example, farmers and ranchers can use a turbine to pump water from a well, to charge batteries that then power machinery, or to provide lighting and heat to non-grid-connected buildings.
Since wind-powered devices need to match the local conditions, you should work with an expert who can find the right equipment to meet your needs.
This might not be as costly as you think, because wind turbine installation often qualifies for property assessed clean energy (PACE financing). With PACE, property owners can finance the upfront cost of turbine installation, and work with a local contractor for the most beneficial setup to save energy. The amount financed is then paid back over time, as a line item on your annual or semiannual property tax bill.
If you’re considering using wind power for your home, here are five potential ways to do it.
Fully off-grid wind power systems are usually best suited for rural areas. City and suburban property owners often run into zoning ordinances or other regulations that prevent them from building a tower on their property. Trees and other buildings could also act as windbreaks, blocking the wind from the turbines and leading to inconsistent power.
Large turbines, with towers between 80 and 140 feet tall, can rise above any ground-level windbreaks and provide more consistent power. Off-grid systems must contain batteries to store unused electricity that a home can tap into when the wind isn’t blowing.
How do you know if an off-grid wind turbine is practical for your specific situation? First off, the average annual wind speed in your neighborhood should be at least nine miles per hour. A turbine won’t be able to provide 100 percent of the energy if speeds are beneath this threshold.
Wind turbines are commonly combined with other renewable energy sources, such as solar power. This works because both wind and solar are “intermittent” energy sources: they don’t provide the same amount of energy 24 hours per day.
You may not be able to predict whether the sun will be shining or the wind blowing on a given day, but you can find out the average annual sunshine and wind speed. This data can provide a broad idea of how much you can rely on solar and wind power. Ideally, both these systems will provide backup power by charging a battery-powered generator that can run during windless, cloudy days.
It’s worth noting that in many regions, wind and solar complement each other. For example, a story in Scientific American notes that wind speeds in rural Colorado were lowest during the summertime – the season with the most sunshine. In the winter, days were often cloudy, but wind speeds were higher on average.
Since both of these energy sources often qualify for PACE financing, you could cover the upfront costs of both renewable systems.
Small wind electric systems are the most common type of residential wind system. These turbines allow you to remain connected to the grid so that you can have a consistent power supply. The small residential turbines provide supplemental power.
Though they don’t create 100 percent of the power for a home, these units can provide significant savings. According to Energy.gov, they can lower energy costs by between 50 and 90 percent. You may be able to get a more precise estimate of savings by looking at a “wind resource map” to see the average local wind speeds in your area.
Options for grid-connected systems include rooftop turbines and tower-based turbines. The U.S. Department of Energy reveals that in some residential areas, the restriction on structure height is 35 feet. This might be an issue, because in order to be effective, wind turbines must be 30 feet taller than anything within a 300-foot radius.
Be sure to check local zoning regulations to determine the requirements in your area, and whether there are any exemptions.
Before the concept of renewable energy became popular, wind turbines were used to power industrial operations. Windmills milled grains and were a prominent feature on many farms. Some farmers also used windmills to pump water – a concept that has survived to this day.
Modern wind pumps are more complicated than the original wind-powered bucket droppers, but they are still widely used. Most have a piston-powered pump to draw water up towards the surface from a well. Water pumps are designed to work at lower speeds, so they have more blades than an electricity-producing wind turbine.
Off-grid wind turbines can charge battery banks to be used when the wind isn’t blowing. This concept can also work on a smaller scale with turbines used to charge batteries for electrical equipment (such as an electric lawnmower, small motor for a boat or scooter, etc.). There are even mini turbines available online to provide charging power for cell phones and laptops.
These units do not provide enough electricity for a home, but they could provide you with the resources to switch from gas-powered equipment to battery-powered equipment, saving on future gas costs.
Wind energy technology continues to evolve, especially when it comes to capturing wind power in urban and suburban areas. While going completely off the grid requires a specific set of conditions, supplemental wind power can provide savings for homeowners who want to remain grid-connected. If conditions are right and you can qualify for financing through a PACE program, a residential wind turbine may be a good investment.
PACE can help you live more sustainably while reducing your energy consumption. For more information, call Ygrene at (855) 901-3999 or check your eligibility online.