How to Install Your Own Small Wind Turbine
Installing a small wind turbine at your home or business can help offset your energy costs while also reducing your carbon footprint. With some planning and effort, you can install your own turbine and start harnessing clean, renewable wind energy. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to install your own small wind turbine:
Choosing the Right Location
Choosing the optimal location is crucial for maximizing your turbine’s energy production. The key factors to consider are:
Wind resource – Look for sites with consistent annual average wind speeds of at least 10 mph. Higher wind speeds are ideal. You can check wind maps or use an anemometer to measure.
Obstacles – Choose a site with few obstructions like trees or buildings that could block the wind. Turbines need smooth, laminar wind flow.
Access – Pick a spot that allows easy access for delivery and installation of the turbine and connection to your electrical system.
Distance – Locate the turbine as close as possible to where you will use the electricity to minimize line losses.
Local zoning – Make sure there are no restrictions on wind turbines in your area. Some locations have height limits or setback requirements.
I chose to install my 2.5 kW turbine on a hill behind my house. This site has average wind speeds of 12 mph and has no nearby obstructions. It is only 150 feet from my electrical panel making connection easy. I verified there are no local zoning issues with small wind turbines.
Most homeowners install their small wind turbine on a concrete foundation or pad to provide a stable mounting surface.
The foundation needs to resist the tension, compression, and torsional forces of the wind acting on the turbine.
It also needs to prevent the tower from settling or sinking which could destabilize the structure.
The size and depth depends on the soil conditions and turbine size, but a 10 foot square by 3 foot deep foundation should suffice for most small residential towers up to 100 feet.
I hired a contractor to pour a 12x12x3 foot deep concrete pad with anchor bolts to mount the tower base. This will provide a solid, immobile foundation for my tower and turbine to withstand decades of wind forces.
The tower supports the turbine and rotor high up where wind speeds are greater. For a small wind turbine, you have two main options:
Guyed lattice tower – This type uses guy-wires and a triangular lattice framework to achieve heights up to 140 feet. They require a large base but use less steel.
Self-supporting monopole – A single cylindrical pole that stands unsupported. They are easier to install but are limited to 80 feet for residential use.
I purchased a 60 foot self-supporting steel monopole designed specifically for small wind turbines. This strikes a good balance of height and ease of installation. I had a truck with a boom crane deliver it for upright installation.
Connecting the wind turbine into your home’s electrical system involves working with dangerous high voltage. I strongly recommend having a certified electrician complete this part of the job.
There are two options for connecting to the grid:
Grid-intertie – This feeds the turbine power directly into your home’s breaker panel and grid. Any excess power gets exported.
Off-grid – For off-grid systems, batteries are used to store power with an inverter converting to AC electricity.
Since I am grid-connected, I had my electrician install a grid-tie inverter and feed the turbine output onto a dedicated breaker in my main panel. The inverter synchronizes with the grid waveform and monitors for problems.
Permitting and Inspection
Most areas require you obtain permits and pass inspections before operating your wind turbine:
The electrical permit ensures the connections are properly sized and installed.
The building permit verifies the structural integrity of the foundation and tower.
The zoning permit checks for compliance with any wind turbine regulations.
I submitted my site plan and turbine specifications to the local permitting office. After securing the proper permits, I had the completed installation inspected before final approval. My turbine is now ready to start producing power!
Installing your own wind turbine is an involved but rewarding project. With careful planning and a methodical installation process, you can successfully harness renewable wind energy and lower your electricity bills for years to come. Let me know if you have any other questions!