Small Wind Energy: Answering Your Questions

Wondering whether wind energy is right for you? You're not alone. Here are the answers to what others are asking.

Small Wind Energy: Answering Your Questions

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Small wind turbine

Using wind energy is a great way to lower your energy costs and reduce your impact on the environment. Despite this, installing a wind turbine on your property is hardly a breeze. This article will help to answer your questions about this clean, reliable source of power.

How do wind energy systems work?

Wind turbines convert the moving energy in wind into renewable electricity. As the system's turbines spin in the wind, a rotor captures that motion to drive an electric generator. Most turbines have automatic speed control systems to keep the rotor from spinning too fast in very high winds.

Is my property suitable for wind energy?

Estimate your site's wind resource; it can vary significantly over an area of just a few miles, due to changes in local terrain. Wind installers generally recommend an average wind speed of at least 12 miles per hour. Consult the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) wind resource map to estimate average wind speeds in your area, or obtain wind speed data from a local airport or weather station.

What size wind turbine do I need?

The size will depend on your energy use, the average wind speed at your site and the height of the wind turbine, all of which will affect the amount of energy it generates. A typical home uses approximately 10,400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, according to the DOE. Based on the average wind speed in your area, a turbine rated in the range of 5 to 15 kilowatts (kW) would be required to make a significant contribution to this demand.

What is the cost and payback?

The cost of installing wind energy can vary significantly, depending on the size and height of the system. Wind resource, energy prices and available financial incentives will affect the payback period, which can range from six to 30 years, according to the DOE.

Are financial incentives available?

The federal government provides a tax credit for the installation of small wind energy systems. The credit covers up to 26% of the cost for systems installed through the end of 2022 and 22% in 2023.

A number of state and local financial incentives are also available. Search the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency for information about incentives in your area.

Are there any zoning or permitting issues?

Before you invest in a small wind energy system, contact your local building inspector or zoning board to find out about any zoning or permitting issues. They can tell you if you will need to obtain a building permit and provide you with a list of requirements.

For more information about planning and installation, see Small Wind Electric Systems from the DOE.

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