Choosing Wind as a Source of Renewable Energy

Michael Hackleman and Claire Anderson explain how choosing wind as a source for renewable energy makes us less dependent on utility giants and nonrenewable, polluting fossil fuels.


  • Harvesting wind as renewable energy.
    Harvesting wind as renewable energy.
    PHOTO: COURTESY BERGEY WINDPOWER
  • Wind plants mounted on tall towers (in this case, a guyed tilt-up tower) effectively capture the wind's power.
    Wind plants mounted on tall towers (in this case, a guyed tilt-up tower) effectively capture the wind's power.
    COURTESY BERGEY WINDPOWER
  • A sample power-production curve for a 900-watt wind plant. Make sure wind plant manufacturers provide you with a power-production curve for each model you are considering.
    A sample power-production curve for a 900-watt wind plant. Make sure wind plant manufacturers provide you with a power-production curve for each model you are considering.
    ADAPTED FROM SWMP
  • Wind maps, like the one shown in the image gallery, show which regions have at least Class 3 winds sufficient to power a wind plant.
    Wind maps, like the one shown in the image gallery, show which regions have at least Class 3 winds sufficient to power a wind plant.
    COURTESY NREL
  • Wind tower.
    Wind tower.
    COURTESY ROLF HECKMANN
  • Conserving wind power.
    Conserving wind power.
    COURTESY SOUTHWEST WINDPOWER
  • Zoning: Before you invest in a wind plant, it is a wise idea to make friends with your local building inspector, board of supervisors or planning board. You'll need to check with them to see if a building permit is required for your wind plant. Some areas restrict the height of structures permitted in residentially zoned areas, although variances are often obtainable.
    Zoning: Before you invest in a wind plant, it is a wise idea to make friends with your local building inspector, board of supervisors or planning board. You'll need to check with them to see if a building permit is required for your wind plant. Some areas restrict the height of structures permitted in residentially zoned areas, although variances are often obtainable.
    NREL

  • Harvesting wind as renewable energy.
  • Wind plants mounted on tall towers (in this case, a guyed tilt-up tower) effectively capture the wind's power.
  • A sample power-production curve for a 900-watt wind plant. Make sure wind plant manufacturers provide you with a power-production curve for each model you are considering.
  • Wind maps, like the one shown in the image gallery, show which regions have at least Class 3 winds sufficient to power a wind plant.
  • Wind tower.
  • Conserving wind power.
  • Zoning: Before you invest in a wind plant, it is a wise idea to make friends with your local building inspector, board of supervisors or planning board. You'll need to check with them to see if a building permit is required for your wind plant. Some areas restrict the height of structures permitted in residentially zoned areas, although variances are often obtainable.

Choosing wind as a source for renewable energy makes us less dependent on polluting fossil fuels.

The wind picks up as the storm front moves in. While people scurry for cover and the trees dance in the blustery wind, a small machine on a slender pipe stands above the roads, houses and tall trees. It is a wind plant, an electricity generating turbine. A fearless reaper, it pivots on its tower to face the wind, propeller-like rotor already scything around, faster and faster. The rotor turns an attached generator, creating electricity with a simple elegance, carving energy from the sky.

In many parts of the continent, you can tap the power of the wind to generate nonpolluting renewable electricity for your home. Wind plant designs have improved so much — and the costs of oil, natural gas and nuclear power are so high — that many power companies are building large-scale wind plants. Farmers are being paid as much as $2,000 a year to lease one-eighth-acre sites for 200-foot-tall commercial wind plants. Experts predict wind-electric generation will soon become a major energy source in the United States.

Why Wind Power?

The more we rely on wind as a source for renewable energy, the less dependent we are on utility giants and nonrenewable, polluting fossil fuels. With world oil and gas supplies dwindling, experts estimate electricity prices will increase significantly in the coming years. A wind plant, especially in concert with a solar-electric photovoltaic (PV) system, is becoming a cost-effective way to meet the energy needs of sustainable homesteads.



To encourage the shift to wind and solar power, various government programs offer personal tax credits, property tax exemptions, low-interest loans and rebate programs. Some states, like California and Illinois, will reimburse up to 60 percent of your wind system costs. (To learn more about what's available in your state, contact a renewable energy dealer or check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy.)

Know Your Site for Wind Power

The map in the image gallery shows areas of the country likely to have sufficient wind speeds to run a home wind plant. Even if you're not located within the breezeways of the plains or the windy valleys of California, you still may be able to produce a portion of your power from wind. Your land's unique topography and microclimate can be more important than overall climatic trends. In the article "Choose the Right Site" (page 76 of this issue), you'll find details on how to determine if a specific location has enough wind to be a good wind plant site.

George_33
7/4/2007 4:18:54 PM

I was realey impressed with your information.Thank you.







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