How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Installing Small Wind Turbines In Your Backyard
Installing small wind turbines in your backyard can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to do it properly.
What Are Small Wind Turbines?
Small wind turbines, also known as micro wind turbines, are wind turbines with lower power outputs than utility-scale wind turbines. They typically have a power output ranging from 1 kW to 50 kW.
These small turbines are designed for residential, farm, and small business applications where there are decent wind speeds. They can be installed on the ground or rooftop. The turbine uses the natural wind to generate electricity that can be used to power your home or business.
Some key advantages of small wind turbines:
- Lowers electricity bills – Any excess electricity produced can be sold back to the grid through net metering.
- Reduces carbon footprint – Turbines generate clean, renewable electricity.
- Can work in conjunction with solar PV systems.
- Receive tax credits and incentives in many regions.
- Lower upfront costs than utility-scale turbines.
How Do Small Wind Turbines Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
Small wind turbines reduce your carbon footprint in two key ways:
1. Displace fossil fuel-generated electricity from the grid
- In most places, electricity from the grid is generated mostly from burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.
- When you install a wind turbine, you directly displace this dirty electricity with clean, renewable energy.
- Even if you are still connected to the grid, the turbine will supply your home’s electricity needs first before pulling from the grid.
2. Reduce overall energy consumption
- Turbines provide free electricity, once installed. This gives you a direct incentive to lower your energy use and bills.
- You can cut unnecessary energy consumption by installing efficient lights, turning off devices, using efficient appliances etc.
- With lower overall energy needs, a higher portion is supplied by your clean turbine electricity.
According to the EPA, small wind turbines can reduce carbon emissions by 6 to 10 tons per year on average. The exact amount depends on your turbine size, wind speeds and energy usage.
What Factors Determine the Carbon Reduction?
The amount of carbon emission reduction depends on:
- Wind turbine size – Larger turbines generate more electricity and savings. But start small if you’re unsure.
- Average wind speeds – Faster wind speeds allow the turbine to run at higher, more efficient levels.
- Energy consumption – Reducing your home’s energy use increases renewable portion from the turbine.
- Electricity costs – Higher electricity rates mean greater savings from the “free” turbine electricity.
- Net metering policy – You may get bill credits or payment for selling excess power back to the grid.
Use online calculators to estimate carbon and electricity savings based on your specific situation.
Where Is Best To Install Small Wind Turbines?
For maximum energy generation and carbon savings, small wind turbines need to be installed in locations with the following optimal conditions:
- Consistent wind speeds – Ideal average speeds of 10 mph or greater. Use a home anemometer for on-site measurement.
- Turbulence-free wind – Avoid locations behind buildings, trees etc. Use an open clearing.
- Tower height – Mount turbine on a tower at least 30 ft high to better access higher wind speeds.
- Site elevation – Higher elevations are windier.
- Local zoning – Check your local ordinances for permitting and height limits.
- Proximity to home – Closer proximity reduces electrical transmission losses.
Work with a small wind consultant to determine the optimal tower design and placement for your property.
What Types of Small Turbines Are Available?
There are two main configurations of small wind turbines:
Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWTs)
- Have a propeller-like rotor that spins horizontally on a mast.
- Most common type of small turbine.
- Well-proven technology, with high reliability and efficiency.
- Example models include Skystream, Honeywell, Urban Green Energy.
Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs)
- Have a rotor that spins vertically around a shaft.
- Benefits include omni-directional operation and lower noise.
- Drawbacks are lower efficiency and high torque ripple.
- Example models are made by Quiet Revolution, Windspire Energy.
For backyard installation, a HAWT is typically a better choice due to higher energy production. A reputable manufacturer will match you with the optimal turbine design based on intended use, location wind speeds, zoning constraints, and budget.
What Are the Steps to Install a Small Wind Turbine?
Installing a small wind turbine is a significant project that requires careful planning and preparation. Here is an overview of the end-to-end installation process:
Site assessment – Evaluate your property for optimal wind conditions, zoning issues, utility interconnection.
System design – Work with a professional installer to select the ideal turbine, tower height, electrical components.
Permitting – Apply for local building permits for the wind turbine installation.
Procurement – Order the turbine, tower, inverter, cables and other electrical components.
Foundation – Construct a stable concrete foundation to anchor the tower.
Assembly – Assemble sections of the tower. Then mount the turbine and blades atop the tower.
Wiring – Run electrical wiring from the turbine down the tower to your electrical panel.
Inspection – Local authorities will inspect the installation for compliance with codes.
Commissioning – Start up and test the wind turbine to ensure proper operation.
Maintenance – Perform periodic maintenance and part replacements to maximize longevity.
Hiring certified wind turbine installers is highly recommended. They will ensure safe and correct installation. DIY installation can be complex and hazardous if not done properly.
What Are the Costs of Small Wind Turbines?
Small wind turbines represent a significant upfront investment. However, the long-term electricity savings can make them quite cost-effective. Typical costs include:
- Wind turbine – $3,000 to $15,000 installed, depending on power output size.
- Inverter – $1,000 to $5,000 for the required inverter.
- Tower – Around $3,000 for a durable tubular tower.
- Installation – Up to $5,000 for professional installation services.
- Permitting & inspection costs – Varies by location, but often $500 – $1,000 range.
There are federal, state, and utility incentives available to significantly offset the upfront costs. The system then provides 20+ years of free renewable electricity.
Can I Install a Turbine Myself?
It is possible for DIYers to self-install small wind turbines. But the process is quite complex and potentially dangerous. Special skills, equipment and electrical knowledge are required. Minimum requirements:
- Ability to pour a proper reinforced concrete foundation.
- Using a rig to safely lift and place the tower sections and turbine.
- Correctly wiring the turbine power output to your electrical panel.
- Ensuring compliance with all permitting and inspection requirements.
Unless you have the proper construction and electrical expertise, it is strongly advised to hire professional turbine installers. This ensures:
- Safe and correct installation avoiding hazards.
- Proper siting for maximum turbine performance.
- Handling permitting/paperwork with local authorities.
- Qualifying for incentives, rebates and tax credits.
- Manufacturer warranty protections.
Installing small wind turbines in your backyard can significantly lower your carbon footprint. They displace fossil fuel electricity and incentivize energy conservation. Carefully consider the optimal wind conditions, zoning, costs and types of turbines available. Then with proper installation and maintenance, a home wind turbine will provide clean, renewable energy for decades.