New and Improved Wind Power

Advances in residential turbines make wind power more affordable and easier to use than ever.


| June/July 2007


For many, home energy costs recently have increased by 50 percent (or more), motivating a growing number of people to look for alternatives. The proliferation of net metering laws, in about 40 states, as well as a growing number of state residential wind incentive programs, has given a strong boost to the small-scale wind turbine industry.

What’s more, recent technical developments have reduced blade noise and improved both turbine efficiency and longevity. There now are a number of new home-scale wind turbines with advanced technology, and there’s the promise of more to come in the near future.

For many years, residential wind turbines have been most popular in rural locations where zoning laws tend to be less restrictive and neighbors less likely to object to them (mainly on aesthetic grounds). That may be about to change. Many in the small-scale wind turbine industry think residential wind power is about to enter suburbia with simpler, less expensive systems that perform more like household appliances than complicated renewable energy systems. And the potential is enormous; it’s estimated there are at least 15 million homes with the resources necessary to make a wind installation cost effective.

But does it really make sense to install a wind turbine in your back yard? Maybe, maybe not. A wind power system that works well in one location may not work in another. There are many variables to consider: the size of your lot, zoning restrictions, wind speeds in your area, the cost and amount of electricity you use, whether your utility offers net metering, and the availability of state rebates and incentives. 

Wind Power Picks Up Speed

Harvesting the wind to generate electricity is not a new idea. In 1888, Charles F. Brush of Cleveland created a wind turbine for this purpose. Early turbines could supply enough energy for a house or two. Today, large commercial-scale turbines can produce about 3 megawatts or more, enough to power about 750 U.S. homes. The recent growth of this industry in the United States has been dramatic. Wind power capacity increased by 27 percent in 2006 and is expected to increase an additional 26 percent this year, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Enthusiasm for small-scale wind also is on the rise, with sales for residential systems at $17 million in 2005, up 62 percent from 2004, according to the association.

Residential wind turbines were first commercialized in the United States in the 1920s and were fairly popular until the Rural Electrification Administration extended electric lines to many remote areas in the 1930s and ’40s. The oil crises of the 1970s spurred a flurry of renewed interest in residential wind power until the tax credits and other government incentives that supported the industry ended in the 1980s.

MarkAnderson037
7/31/2013 3:58:37 AM

Thanks for highlighting the best way to generate more wind energy. With many people exploring options to reduce their monthly energy bills, the improved wind power generators will be popular among many homeowners.


r2
12/26/2008 6:26:28 AM

Its good to see Southwest improve their performance in slower speed wind. Kudos. Having said that you need "straight" and consistent wind for any small HAWT to work and this limits most wind sites to 100 foot towers which are NOT allowed where most people live in urban and sub-urban areas. If you are looking for small wind power solutions in urban areas, really the only choice are Vertical Axis Wind Turbines with CURVED blades which support any direction of attack and a vertical angle of attack from +25 to -25 degrees for turbulent, twisting and tumbling wind at low and medium wind speeds.. Helical blades also reduce vibration as well as noise. Even then, if you go for an urban VAWT you need to convince city government officials to let you operate such VAWTS, and it does not make sense unless there is a Feed Law (see http://www.wind-works.org/articles/feed_laws.html) Getting local government permission to erect a VAWT can take along time. You need to pick one that is quiet as well, under 60 decibels from 5 meters (just like HVAC units on a roof). HAWTS hunt in such winds, and when they do, their power output drops by as much as 35% to 65% when hunting (in light and medium winds in urban or suburban areas this can be 65%+ of the time of operation). I would suggest anyone to check out www.wind-works.org for more information on this hunting phenomena. There are some good videos there that show just how poorly HAWTS operate in urban areas. What this means is the annual yield from the small HAWT will be 35% to 65% less than advertised in urban and suburban areas, even on a 100 foot tower,, so the location of your site (no nearby trees or buildings for 1/4 mile in prevailing wind direction) and the height of the site (100 foot tower) is very important to getting close to vendor advertised power outputs. To really reach a goal of off grid self dependency you will need to employ solar as well as use clean storage like air compression (


Steve_1
6/23/2008 5:14:22 AM

WInd power has always fascinated me, but check out this new wind turbine that is coming to market in New York: www.windtamerturbines.com/ It seems to offer a very high efficiency and is low impact to wildlife and humans that live near one.






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