Home Wind Power: Yes, in My Backyard!

Considering residential wind power for energy self-sufficiency? Find out whether a home wind turbine is right for you.

| April/May 2013

So maybe you’re thinking you want to generate your own electricity, and home wind power has crossed your mind. After all, who really enjoys paying a utility bill? Small wind energy is renewable, non-polluting, and, in the right circumstances, can save you money.

But is home wind power a good choice for you? The answer may surprise you, because living in a windy area is not necessarily the most important factor. In fact, many properties are not a good fit for installing a wind turbine even if they have a lot of wind (for reasons we’ll get into). On the other hand, if you want to go off-grid and produce your own electricity, you almost certainly want to consider installing a home wind turbine, even if your location is not notably windy.

Off-Grid Residential Wind Power

Here’s the deal: For a home wind turbine to be worth your investment, you really need to live on an acre or more. That’s the guideline from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Guide to Small Wind Electric Systems, a free publication for homeowners. Living in a rural area helps, because if you’re in a residential neighborhood, you’re likely to run into conflicts with zoning and local homeowners associations. Additionally, you’re more likely to find a high average wind speed in wide open spaces far from windbreaks such as buildings and trees. Altogether, while installing a small wind turbine in a city or suburb is certainly possible, you’re much more likely to have the right conditions for home wind power if you live well outside city limits.

That’s the case for Cam and Michelle Mather, who live on 150 forested acres in rural Ontario. The Mathers live in an off-grid home powered by solar panels and their micro wind turbine, a 1-kilowatt (kw) Bergey Excel 1. On such a large property, they’re nowhere near their closest neighbors, so there’s no one who might be upset about the noticeable — but not unpleasant — wind turbine noise or the very visible 100-foot tower in the couple’s yard.

What’s surprising about the Mathers’ situation is that their local wind speeds are not ideal, yet home wind power works beautifully for them. “Technically, if you look at wind maps, we’re in a bad location for wind, but we wanted to be off-grid for environmental reasons,” Cam says. The biggest issue with the Mathers’ property is that they have too many trees, and even though their small wind turbine is easily 40 feet above the tree line, the landscape slows down the wind. Wind still makes sense for them, though, because they’re off the grid, so their only electricity is what they produce and then store in batteries. They started with solar panels, but adding a wind turbine to the mix made the whole system much more stable and efficient — a major benefit when you’re solely responsible for generating your own electricity.

Renewable energy experts often recommend installing hybrid wind and solar energy systems for off-grid living. These systems work well because wind and solar energy tend to be most available at different times.

3/13/2018 10:44:55 AM

The wind turbine sounds good. What do you do on days that the wind does not Blow? I have some solar but not enough to power the whole house.

3/13/2018 10:44:53 AM

Having I wind Turbine sounds good, But what do you do on days that the wind does not blow? I have some solar but not enough to power the whole house.

9/8/2017 5:16:01 PM

Hello, My name is Jared. I have two acres of property up on a hill and am thinking of getting into wind turbine or solar power? I have a few questions about what size turbine or solar panel is right for me? I would like to go off grid but I'm sure the electric company wouldn't like that very much...? how do these systems work and can it be tied into my electric I have now? Any help would be much appreciated

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