How to Save Money by Installing Your Own Wind Turbine

How to Save Money by Installing Your Own Wind Turbine

Installing a wind turbine on your property can help reduce your electricity bills and provide clean, renewable energy. While hiring a professional installer may seem daunting due to the high upfront costs, installing a wind turbine yourself can be a feasible option for the DIY homeowner. With careful planning, preparation, and adhering to safety precautions, you can reap the financial and environmental benefits of wind energy.

Assessing if Wind Turbine Installation is Right for You

Before deciding to self-install a wind turbine, you must assess if your property conditions are suitable. Key factors to consider are:

Wind Resource

  • To effectively harness wind energy, your location should have an average annual wind speed of at least 10 mph. Higher wind speeds allow turbines to produce more electricity.
  • Use a home anemometer for at least 12 months to collect wind data and determine your site’s wind power density.
  • In general, open plains, hilltops, ridges, and coastal areas tend to be better sites. Obstructions like trees and buildings can greatly reduce wind speeds.

Zoning and Permits

  • Your local zoning department can advise if wind turbines are permitted. Many have restrictions on tower height and setback distance from property lines.
  • Small turbines under 100 kW capacity often don’t require permits. Larger turbines will require extensive paperwork and inspections.

Physical Space

  • Plan for the total height of the tower and turbine to be at least 30 feet taller than any surrounding obstacles within 500 feet.
  • Have several acres available for the tower base andguy wire anchors.

Upfront Cost

  • Purchasing a wind turbine and parts like towers, batteries, and inverters can cost $10,000 to $50,000 for a small system.

  • Factor in ongoing maintenance costs too.

If your site meets these criteria, self-installation may make financial sense.

Choosing the Right Wind Turbine Size

Your location’s wind speeds, energy needs, and budget will dictate what size wind turbine to install. Key factors include:

  • Residential turbines usually range from 2 to 10 kW in power capacity. At minimum, a 5 kW turbine is recommended for a completely off-grid home.

  • With average wind speeds of 10 mph, a 10 kW turbine can generate about 15,000 kWh annually. This is enough to cover half the electricity needs of a typical household.

  • Larger capacity turbines over 10 kW are generally not suitable for DIY installation and require hired contractors with special equipment.

  • Turbine size also affects upfront costs. A 5 kW turbine can cost $15,000 to $25,000 versus $50,000 or more for a 10 kW turbine.

Evaluate your household’s electricity consumption and compare different turbine models to find the optimal size. Getting a turbine that is too big or too small can mean wasted investment.

Picking the Optimal Tower Height

Mounting your wind turbine higher makes it access faster wind speeds and generates more power. Things to consider for tower height include:

  • The minimum height should be 80 feet for smaller residential turbines. At this height winds are less turbulent.

  • As a rule of thumb, the total tower height should be 20 feet taller than surrounding obstacles within 500 feet.

  • Going higher exponentially boosts output. Increasing tower height from 80 to 120 feet can improve power generation by 20% to 40%.

  • Taller tower designs like freestanding lattice or guyed monopole allow heights of up to 140 feet for home installations.

  • But taller towers add more material costs and installation complexity. A 120 foot tower can cost over $10,000 – four times the price of an 80 foot tower.

Do a detailed cost benefit analysis to find the optimal height based on your wind conditions, turbine power curve, and budget. Getting tower height right is critical.

Choosing the Right Tower Design

There are four main tower designs to choose from, each with their own advantages:

Tilt-up Towers

  • These are the simplest and least expensive self-installed towers, costing $3,000 to $7,000.

  • Allow heights of up to 80 feet using gin poles and winches for tilting up sections.

  • Require substantial anchoring and are susceptible to vibration.

Freestanding Lattice Towers

  • Very tall towers up to 140 feet can be assembled using lattice sections at ~ $10,000 cost.

  • Require pouring large concrete pad foundations.

Guyed Monopole Towers

  • Use guy wires under tension for added stability and able to reach 120 feet for ~ $10,000.

  • Require substantial land area for guy wire ground anchors.

Tilt-down Towers

  • Allow lowered turbine access for maintenance. More complex installation.

  • Higher initial spends of ~ $15,000 but easier long-term maintenance.

Evaluate your site constraints, desired height, and budget when deciding on the optimal tower design.

Safety Precautions During Self-Installation

Installing a wind turbine involves working at dangerous heights, heavy equipment, and high voltage electronics. Safety should be your top priority. Key precautions include:

  • Always wear OSHA approved climbing harnesses, ropes, and helmets when working on the tower.

  • Use tag lines to control loads when lifting turbine and tower components.

  • Follow manufacturer instructions exactly for properly assembling turbine and tower components.

  • Only connect the turbine to batteries after completing the full installation to avoid shock hazards.

  • If you have any medical conditions or phobias related to heights or tight spaces, avoid self-installing a turbine.

  • Consider hiring professional rigging crews with liability insurance for the complex tasks like crane operation, tower assembly, and turbine mounting.

Don’t take any shortcuts. Preventing accidents must be prioritized over costs.

Connecting the Wind Turbine to Your Electrical System

Once the wind turbine is mounted on the tower, you will need to integrate it with your home’s electrical system:

Batteries

  • Batteries provide storage for wind energy for when turbine output exceeds home consumption.

  • For reliable back-up power, plan for at least 3 days of battery storage capacity.

  • Lead-acid batteries are a proven and cost-effective option at ~ $1,000 per kWh capacity.

Inverter and Wiring

  • An inverter converts the wind turbine’s DC output into grid-quality AC power for your home at ~ $1,000 for a 5 kW unit.

  • Use a licensed electrician for connecting inverters and wiring to avoid safety hazards.

Transfer Switch

  • A transfer switch safely shifts your home circuits between wind turbine and utility grid power as needed.

  • Managed transfer switches that divert excess power to batteries, water heating, etc can help optimize consumption.

Proper turbine connections and a robust battery bank provide maximum energy security during grid outages.

Maintaining Your Wind Turbine Over the Long-Term

Once your wind turbine is up and running, some key maintenance activities are required:

  • Inspect guy wires and anchors for proper tensioning and corrosion yearly.

  • Check for loose bolts/screws, wear and cracking on turbine components every 6 months.

  • Replace transmission fluids and lubricate bearings every 3-5 years as per manual.

  • Clean debris and dirt buildup on blades and sensors periodically.

  • Repaint and coat metal parts as needed to prevent rusting.

  • Monitor battery health and capacity – expect to replace batteries every 5-10 years.

  • Have licensed electricians inspect electrical systems and joints every 2 years.

  • Be prepared for occasional component failures – stock spare parts like furling motors.

Neglecting maintenance can lead to system failures. Schedule tasks in advance and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to maximize turbine lifespan.

Conclusion

Installing your own wind turbine is a complex but achievable project for DIYers with proper research and preparation. Determining if your site is viable, choosing the right turbine and tower design, safely executing the installation, and conducting regular maintenance are all critical in realizing the 30% or more reduction in electricity costs wind energy can provide. With prudent project and financial planning, you can enjoy the satisfaction and energy independence of harnessing your own renewable electricity.