What you need to know about small wind turbines
What is a Wind Turbine?
Wind turbines are a clean and efficient method of turning raw kinetic wind power into electric power.
Wind turbines can be connected directly to machinery for mechanical energy or they can be connected to power generators and can create electricity. These three bladed structures, mounted on high poles or towers, are typically pointed into the wind using computers and sensors.
The wind turbine itself is made up of a rotor mounted to a wind turbine generator which is mounted to a frame and then a tail is mounted on the opposing side of the rotor.
If the wind turbine does not have a sensor based system pushing it into the wind, the tail will adjust it manually. Higher towers and broader rotors will generate more energy overall, so if you are considering the investment, understand that it is long term outlay and that the relatively low additional cost for a higher tower or larger rotor on your wind turbine will help offset the overall cost more quickly.
As you consider your investment in a wind turbine generator, consider a hybrid power system using solar electric panels as well. Depending on where you live the seasonality of wind speed and the amount of sunshine produced in the warm summer months, you may find that you'll reap more benefits from using all of your natural resources to power your home rather than just one or the other.
A basic wind power system will consist of:
Wind turbine on top of a tower (1) that is wired down to a control box (2) that regulates the charging of a large deep cycle battery bank Inverter which draws electricty from the battery bank and converts to normal household electricity (AC) & feeds the appliances in the home with power as needed.
Various safety devices like fuses, breakers and lightning arrestors
Why buy a wind turbine?
Free energy for renewable energy installations comes mainly from the sun and the wind.
Wind turbines are the ideal partners for solar panels because when the sun is not out during the day, the wind is usually blowing if you’ve got a good wind turbine site.
At night there is no power from your solar panels, but it is often windy.
Wind turbines are also cheaper than solar panels for the same power output, although the overall cost of the energy installation must be considered.
How big should my wind turbine be?
This depends on how much energy you need, and how much is available from the wind at your site.
Evaluating your energy requirements is not too hard - it focuses on the various electrical appliances you have, how much power they use, and how often you use them.
If your intended site for the wind turbine is up on a hill or a ridge and/or is exposed to high prevailing winds, then there is a good chance that much of your energy can be supplied from the wind turbine.
Renewable energy installations for homes often have a 1 kW wind turbine that has a rotor that can be anything from 2.1m to 3.6m in diameter.
If you have larger energy requirements and you have a good wind resource, then a turbine might suit.
Where should I put it?
A windy place on your property is the obvious choice, but carefully consider the options before deciding on the best spot.
For example, although the edge of a cliff on a coastal property might be windy, don’t put your wind turbine there because abrupt changes in the landscape makes the wind do strange things and can adversely affect your wind turbine’s performance.
In general terms, a site that has at least a half acre of open land and average of 10 mph (16km/h) or higher winds is a good candidate for a wind turbine installation.
Pine trees can grow quickly, so don’t erect a turbine amongst young trees As a general rule, an exposed and elevated site with gentle surrounding contours (preferably flat) is the best.
Distance between your wind turbine and your house will vary from site to site, and there are ways of minimising the losses in your cable connecting the two, depending on the specifics of the machine you buy and your application.
Check with your local authorities for their requirements regards, height, distance from dwelling etc too!
How noisy are these things?
Noise is an issue for some people, and not for others.
It is subjective. If you are intending siting your machine close to your home and are worried about the noise, then buy a machine that is designed to be quiet.
In many cases you won’t be able to hear it no matter how noisy it is, because the wind itself creates noise around the house, trees and so on, or the machine is sited far enough away from your house.
Don’t be tempted to attach the wind turbine directly to your house, no matter how easy it looks to do. The vibrations and resonance from the turbine will keep you awake at night.