How to Save Money by Installing Your Own Small Wind Turbine

How to Save Money by Installing Your Own Small Wind Turbine

How to Save Money by Installing Your Own Small Wind Turbine

Installing a small wind turbine at your home or business can help reduce your energy costs and carbon footprint. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to save money by installing your own small wind turbine.

Assessing if a Small Wind Turbine is Right for You

Before installing a wind turbine, it’s important to assess if your location has adequate wind resources. Ideal locations for small wind turbines are open areas with average annual wind speeds of at least 10 mph. Some key factors to consider:

  • Wind Speed – Use a home anemometer for at least 1 year to measure average wind speeds. Higher speeds above 12 mph are best.

  • Placement – Turbines need unobstructed wind flow. Avoid locations near buildings or trees. Place turbine at least 30 ft above any obstacles within 300 ft.

  • Zoning Laws – Check local building codes and zoning laws regarding small wind turbines for your area. Permits may be required.

  • Home Energy Use – Estimate your home’s energy needs. A small turbine can offset 20-60% of electricity use. More energy efficient homes see higher reductions.

If your location has suitable winds and you have the proper permits, a small turbine can be a good fit.

Selecting the Right Size Small Wind Turbine

The size of the turbine determines how much power it can generate. Important factors when selecting size:

  • Rated Power – 1-10 kW turbines are common for homes. Match power output to your electricity needs.

  • Rotor Diameter – Diameters range from 8-27 ft for small turbines. Larger diameters capture more wind energy.

  • Tower Height – Standard heights are 60-120 ft. Greater heights access stronger wind speeds.

  • Safety Certifications – Choose turbines certified to AWEA safety standards for optimal safety and reliability.

Consult wind maps and the turbine manufacturer’s sizing guidelines to pick the optimal size. A 5 kW turbine on an 80 ft tower is suitable for many homes.

Estimating Energy Savings

Once you’ve selected a properly sized turbine, you can estimate the potential energy savings. Key factors include:

  • Average Wind Speed – Energy output rises exponentially with wind speed. Use your onsite measurements.

  • Rated Power – The turbine’s power curve estimates production based on wind speed.

  • Electricity Costs – Calculate savings based on your utility’s electricity rate ($/kWh). Time-of-use rates add complexity.

  • Energy Use – Reduce estimate by how much self-consumed vs sold back to the grid.

  • Incentives – Tax credits and renewable energy incentives can offset 30%+ of costs.

Online calculators from the manufacturer can provide detailed annual energy and cost savings estimates for your specific model and location.

Turbine Tower Design and Foundation

The tower raises the turbine to greater wind speeds. Key tower considerations:

  • Height – Standard heights range from 60-120 ft. Maximizing height is optimal.

  • Type – Tilt-up guyed towers are commonly used. Self-supporting lattice or monopole towers also work.

  • Foundation – A concrete pad or pier foundation provides stability, sized for the soils and loads.

  • Installation – Towers require careful, safe installation according to engineering designs. Consider hiring installers.

Proper tower design and foundation is critical for safety and performance. Consult engineers to design the optimal tower for your turbine model and location.

The foundation provides stability against lateral and vertical loads. Key factors for foundation design include:

  • Soil Conditions – Soil strength impacts foundation sizing. Glacier till, rock or compacted soils are best.

  • Turbine Loads – The tower transmits both vertical and lateral loads into the foundation.

  • Frost Line – Foundations must extend below the frost line to avoid frost heave.

  • Anchor Design – Anchor bolts secure the tower base to foundation.

Hire qualified engineers to design a site-specific foundation for the local soil conditions and turbine loads.

Turbine Installation Process

Installing a wind turbine involves careful planning, permitting, and methodical installation. Key steps include:

  • Obtain zoning and building permits for the wind turbine installation.

  • Survey and stake the precise site location based on optimal wind flows.

  • Geotechnical study of soils and foundation design.

  • Pouring a concrete foundation according to engineering plans.

  • Receiving delivery of preassembled turbine components.

  • Lifting, aligning, fastening tower sections with a crane.

  • Lifting and attaching the turbine assembly atop the tower.

  • Electrical connection to grid or batteries following electrical code.

  • Commissioning and testing for proper operation.

Consider hiring professional wind turbine installers for a safe, code-compliant installation.

Connecting to the Grid or Batteries

The turbine can connect to the utility grid to offset your usage or charge batteries. Key interconnection considerations:

  • Electrical Code – NEC, IEEE 1547 standards for generator interconnections must be followed.

  • Protection – Disconnect switch, fuses or breakers are required for safe isolation.

  • AC vs DC – Grid-tied systems produce AC. Battery charging uses DC rectifiers.

  • Inverters – For off-grid battery systems, DC to AC inverters supply home AC power.

  • Batteries – Deep cycle lead acid batteries are commonly used for small wind systems. Lithium ion works too.

  • Metering – For grid-tied systems, net metering tracks power supplied vs consumed.

Consult a certified electrician for proper generator interconnection to the utility grid or batteries per local codes.

Ongoing Turbine Maintenance

Routine maintenance keeps your wind turbine running efficiently:

  • Inspections – Visual inspection of all components for any wear or damage. Check bolts/fasteners.

  • Hardware – Lubricate moving parts per the manual. Replace worn bolts, bearings or brushes.

  • Blades – Clean debris from blades. Check for cracks or damage. Touch up protective coatings.

  • Electrical – Confirm voltages, currents, insulation resistance within spec. Check connections.

  • Controls – Verify smooth pitching/yawing operation and response. Calibrate sensors.

The turbine manual provides detailed maintenance procedures and intervals. Most maintenance can be performed by the owner with proper training.

Conclusion

Installing a small wind turbine is a significant project requiring planning, permitting, and safe installation. But with adequate wind resources, a home wind turbine can provide 20-60% of your electricity from clean renewable energy for decades. Use the guidelines in this article to determine if wind power is right for your location, and how to size, install, connect, and maintain a wind turbine to maximize energy savings for years to come. With proper maintenance, a home wind turbine can provide clean power for over 25 years.