Installing wind turbines in your backyard can provide a sustainable way to meet all your home’s energy needs. Small wind turbines have advanced greatly in recent years, making them an increasingly viable option. With proper planning and installation, backyard wind power can offset 100% of a household’s electricity consumption.
What are Backyard Wind Turbines?
Backyard wind turbines, also known as small wind turbines or residential wind turbines, are wind energy systems designed for use at homes, farms, and small businesses. They consist of a tower, generator, blades, and associated electronics. The wind spins the blades, which turn a shaft connected to a generator to produce electricity. Modern small wind turbines can power a home using winds as low as 10 mph.
Backyard wind turbines are available in sizes from 400 watts to 100 kilowatts (KW). The size needed depends on your energy use and available wind resource. Most residential applications use turbines in the 2 to 10 KW range.
Benefits of Backyard Wind Turbines
Installing a wind turbine at your home provides these key benefits:
Lower electricity bills – Wind turbines generate power to offset your utility electricity purchases. Many homeowners see 50% – 90% reductions in their energy bills.
Clean energy – Wind turbines create electricity without producing greenhouse gas emissions. This provides environmental benefits.
Energy independence – Producing your own renewable energy reduces reliance on the utility company and grid. Wind and solar together can eliminate your electric bill entirely.
Financial incentives – Federal, state, and local incentives can cover 25% – 50% of wind turbine system costs through tax credits and rebates.
Grid resiliency – Wind energy you don’t use immediately is exported to the grid for credit, providing a backup source during outages.
How Much Wind is Needed?
A good wind resource is key for maximizing energy production. Small wind turbines require average annual wind speeds of at least 10 mph to be effective. Installing your wind turbine on a tower heights of 80 feet (25m) or more helps access faster, less turbulent winds.
Use the Wind Resource Map from the NREL to estimate the wind resource potential for your area. Locations rated as Wind Power Class 3 or above are suitable for small wind turbines. Those with lower classifications will need larger rotors and taller towers.
You can also install an anemometer to get onsite wind speed data and determine the optimal tower height and turbine size. Monitor for a minimum of one year before purchasing a wind turbine.
How Many Wind Turbines are Needed?
The number of wind turbines needed depends on:
Your home’s energy use – Review 12 months of electric bills to analyze your consumption patterns.
The wind turbine’s rated power – Choose a turbine appropriately sized for your location’s winds.
The wind resource – Sites with higher average wind speeds produce more energy.
As a rule of thumb, you can offset 100% of your electricity use if the total rated power of the wind turbines is 1.5 to 2 times your annual consumption.
To provide full energy needs for a household using 10,000 kWh/year, install one 5 KW turbine at a site with good wind, or two 3 KW turbines at a site with moderate wind.
Proper siting is crucial for maximizing wind turbine performance. Key factors to consider include:
Tall tower heights – Extend the tower as high as feasible to reach faster wind speeds.
Spacing – Allow a distance of at least 15 times the rotor diameter between turbines.
Obstacles – Position upwind of buildings, trees, and terrain that can create turbulence.
Access – Ensure adequate space for cranes and trucks during installation and maintenance.
Soil conditions – Perform soils tests to design foundations for the tower weight and wind loads.
Permitting – Most areas have zoning requirements and height limits for small wind projects.
Selecting the Right Wind Turbine
With proper siting, most reputable commercial small wind turbines can reliably offset all household energy consumption. When selecting a wind turbine, key factors to consider include:
Rotor diameter – The blade length determines the power output. Longer blades harvest more wind energy.
Rated power – Match the rated output to your location’s wind speeds.
Reputation – Choose an established manufacturer with proven technology.
Safety certifications – Look for turbines tested to AWEA and IEC standards for safety and durability.
Warranty – Select a turbine with a 5, 10, or 20 year manufacturer’s warranty.
Top providers of residential wind turbines suitable for high output include Bergey, Gaia, Northern Power Systems, and others. Consult with a wind expert to select the optimal model.
Installation and Maintenance
Proper installation and maintenance are key to realizing the full benefits of your wind turbine investment.
Most manufacturers provide complete installation services. Otherwise, you will need to hire a contractor experienced in wind turbine system permitting, foundations, electrical connections, and zoning requirements.
Routine maintenance consists of inspecting systems and replacing consumables like filters. More intensive service intervals are needed every 5-10 years to replace drivetrain elements.
To keep your wind turbine operating at full productivity for 20-25 years, budget approximately 10% of the initial cost annually for maintenance needs.
Installing a wind turbine represents a major investment. However, various financial incentives are available to improve the return on investment:
Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) – Get a tax credit equal to 26% of wind system costs through 2022.
Accelerated depreciation – Recover investments faster by depreciating turbines over 5 years.
State/local rebates – Many states offer rebates of $1,000 per KW installed.
Net metering – Receive credits from your utility on your monthly bill for excess generation.
Performance payments – Some utilities provide Production Based Incentives (PBIs) for wind energy.
Consult a tax professional to maximize federal tax benefits. Contact your state energy office and utility to check on local incentive programs.
With incentives, homeowners investing in backyard wind can see payback periods averaging 7-12 years. This results in an average return on investment of 10% or more.
Exact payback depends on factors like:
- Wind speeds and energy production
- Electricity costs and net metering rates
- System purchase and installation costs
- Financial incentives utilized
Returns are best in areas with high energy costs and strong incentives. Maintenance should be factored in when calculating long-term profitability.
For remote homes or full energy independence, backyard wind turbines can enable going off-grid.
To eliminate your electric bill, you will need:
- Energy efficiency – Minimize loads with efficient appliances and lighting.
- Sufficient wind turbines – Size systems to handle all loads.
- Battery bank – Store excess power in batteries for no-wind periods.
- Generator backup – Use an LP generator for extended low-wind events.
Living off-grid provides freedom but also requires vigilance in monitoring your systems. With proper planning, you can successfully leave the electric grid by harnessing the free power of the wind.
Installing backyard wind turbines enables homeowners to offset all their energy needs with clean, renewable wind power. With proper siting and system sizing, residential wind can provide 100% of your electricity consumption. To maximize savings, be sure to utilize available financial incentives. With appropriate maintenance, a backyard wind turbine will provide decades of free electricity while shrinking your carbon footprint. Take control of your energy costs and future by harnessing home wind power today.