Home Wind Power
Wind Energy Facts
Renewable Energy Resources
As residential size wind turbine technology improves and local communities change zoning laws allowing rooftop and small tower turbine installations, consumers will increase their interest in the costs and benefits associated with home wind power systems.
Today's home wind power systems are produced in the 400W to 2kw (2000W) electricity generation range. They can stand alone or be tied into the electricity grid.
Consumers interested in understanding how these different packages might apply to their electric bill need to start with two basic pieces of information, their average wind speed, based on yearly calculations, and the energy output of the wind turbine, calculated in kilowatt hours (kWh).
Usually the wind power package provides detailed specifications for its electricity generating output, calculated in kilowatt hours (kWh) per month and/or year.
Consumers also need to read the product specifications clearly to understand the minimum and maximum amount of wind any particular system need to successfully generate electricity.
While home wind marketers tout the merits of their product, it's important to note that their electricity generation claims often are based on fairly high average wind speeds. A quick look at the average annual wind data provided by NOAA weather forecasters shows that most major metropolitan areas in the United States rate at an average of 10mph winds or less.
Since the economic benefits associated with any home wind system depend heavily on average wind generation, areas receiving annual winds of five mph or less probably are not good placed for home wind. Many modern turbines require winds of 5mph just to get started.
The Energy Information Agency (EIA) reports, "In 2008, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 11,040 kWh, an average of 920 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. Tennessee had the highest annual consumption at 15,624 kWh and Maine the lowest at 6,252 kWh."
Therefore, a typical 2kw system operating in an area with an average wind speed of 10mph, might generates, at most, about 200 kWh of electricity/month, or perhaps 20 per cent of the average residential customer's needs.
The average 2kw system also needs to be mounted anywhere from thirty feet to sixty feet above ground. In some cases, the height requirement and wind direction require the use of a pole mount rather than a roof top installation. The blade length of an average 2kw system might average ten feet in length.
Systems tied into the grid would be able to sell the excess energy, as would be the case during night time hours when the wind is blowing steadily and the family is sleeping. Non-grid systems often store the excess power in batteries.
The special needs associated with home wind power generation suggest that the technology is less suited to the mass market than to a niche market of homeowners with sufficient wind resources and space requirements.
© 2011. Patricia A. Michaels