How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Installing Small Wind Turbines On Your Property
Installing small wind turbines on your property can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to do it successfully.
What Are Small Wind Turbines?
Small wind turbines, or small wind energy systems, are wind turbines that have a smaller power generating capacity compared to large commercial wind turbines. They are designed to provide power for a home, farm, or small business.
The main components of a small wind turbine are:
- Rotor blades – The blades capture the kinetic energy of the wind and convert it into rotational energy. They are usually made of reinforced plastic or composite materials.
- Generator – Converts the rotational energy into electrical energy. Can be induction, permanent magnet, or direct drive generators.
- Tower – Supports the rotor blades high up where wind speeds are greater. Freestanding or guyed monopole towers are common.
Small wind turbines can have a power generating capacity from less than 1 kW to up to 100 kW. However, most residential sized turbines are in the range of 5 kW to 10 kW.
How Small Wind Turbines Reduce Carbon Footprint
Installing a small wind turbine can significantly reduce your carbon footprint in the following ways:
- It generates clean renewable electricity directly onsite, reducing reliance on fossil fuel-based grid electricity.
- Even a 5 kW wind turbine can generate about 15,000 kWh per year, enough to offset over 10 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
- Wind power generation produces zero greenhouse gas emissions during operation. The carbon footprint comes indirectly from manufacturing, installation, maintenance etc.
- Using wind energy increases energy independence and reduces exposure to fossil fuel price hikes.
So by installing properly sized small wind turbines, homeowners can contribute meaningfully to reducing carbon emissions.
Suitable Locations for Small Wind Turbines
For a wind turbine to work efficiently, you need a site with the right wind resource. Some guidelines on choosing a good site:
- The location should have average annual wind speeds of at least 10 mph at the proposed turbine hub height.
- Prioritize elevated sites such as hills, ridgelines, and open areas without obstructions to wind flow.
- Avoid locations with high turbulence such as cities, forests, and uneven terrain.
- Consider zoning rules and get necessary permits before installation.
- Make sure there is enough room for the tower height needed. Plan for future obstructions like trees growing taller.
Ideally, you should have a wind resource assessment done for your specific property before proceeding.
Estimating Power Generation
The amount of power generated by a wind turbine depends on:
- Rotor swept area – more swept area means more energy capture.
- Wind turbine power curve – indicates power output across a range of wind speeds.
- The wind resource – higher average wind speeds produce greater total energy.
Many online wind energy calculators can estimate energy production based on your site’s average wind speed, the turbine power curve, and swept area.
As a rule of thumb, a 10 kW turbine would produce about 1500 kWh per month in a location with 5.5 m/s (12 mph) average wind speed. The energy yield would be lower for weaker wind resource sites.
Main Steps for Installation
Installing a small wind turbine is a complicated project requiring expertise. But in general, the main steps are:
- Choose the right turbine model based on your site wind speeds, energy needs and local zoning limits on turbine size. Get supplier recommendations too.
- Apply for necessary zoning and building permits. There may be noise and lighting requirements to fulfill.
- Install the wind turbine tower, ensuring proper anchoring and lightning protection. Towers are often 80-140 ft for better wind capture.
- Connect the turbine to your electrical panel or grid tie-in. Most turbines need a battery bank to store energy.
- Do regular maintenance and inspections. Budget for annual oiling and upkeep of moving parts.
Getting a renewable energy contractor to handle permitting, installation and O&M is advisable.
Costs and Incentives
A 5-10 kW small wind turbine system typically costs $15,000 to $50,000 in purchase and installation expenses. This depends on turbine size, tower specifications, permitting costs and more.
Many states, utilities and municipalities provide incentives like rebates, tax credits etc to promote small wind installations. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency lists state-wise incentive programs.
The investment can pay for itself over time through years of lower electricity bills. But the upfront cost can be prohibitive for some homeowners.
Installing a properly sited small wind turbine tailored for your property and energy needs can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. It also curbs fossil fuel usage and protects against utility rate increases. With the right location, turbine model, permitting, installation and maintenance, small wind can be a viable renewable energy option.