The wind sweeping across your homestead is a harvestable resource capable of helping you meet all of your home energy needs. But successfully investing in a home wind power system requires wise planning and thoughtful investigation. Before you rush headlong into it, there are a number of things you will have to take into consideration, and unless you already have some background in wind, you will need to go through a bit of an educational process before moving forward.
Up, Up Into The Sky
Any obstacles with a notable vertical extension can be a hindrance to the successful operation of a wind energy system. The thirty-foot rule for determining wind turbine height is a good one, but it must be remembered that this is the minimum amount of clearance your turbine should have above the tallest object on your land (or on your neighbor’s land if your turbine is to be located within 500 feet or so of his property line). In some instances you may want to consider actually removing a tree or building if you don’t want your turbine to have to rise too high to soar above it, but in reality you will probably want to get as much vertical extension on your turbine as you can afford in most cases, since higher extension means access to stronger and steadier winds.
Ideally, you would like to be able to locate your wind turbine on the highest (or at least one of the highest) points on your land, which will make it easier for you to achieve excellent vertical reach without having to bust your budget on tower materials.
Even Wind Turbines Need Elbow Room
Picking a spot for your turbine where you know obtaining the proper verticality will present no significant challenge is the best option for sure. But you mustn’t forget about the importance of ground space, either – if the place you have chosen to install your turbine gives you no room to operate, it might be impossible to fit your wind system in where you want it.
But really, this all depends on what kind of wind tower you choose to install. There are three different types, actually, and depending on how much open space you have surrounding your planned location, you can make a choice that is appropriate for your particular circumstances. When you are dealing with a small space where elbowroom is lacking, freestanding towers could be your best bet, since this type of wind turbine support can be squeezed into tight spaces that might otherwise be inaccessible. Be forewarned, however, that this type of tower will cost you more than the other two kinds, so you want to be really sure that the location you have chosen for your wind system is worth the extra expense.
Fixed-guyed towers, on the other hand, are the least costly (and most common) type of wind tower, and they are perfectly suitable for any location where at least a moderate amount of space is available. The one real drawback is that it will be necessary to climb up the tower to install and maintain your wind collection equipment, so if you do not find this thought appealing, you might want to consider going with a tilt-up tower instead. Somewhat more expensive than fixed-guyed towers, tilt-up options allow you to perform all installation and maintenance procedures from the ground, after which the tower can be lifted or re-lifted vertically into its proper upright position. This type of tower will require more elbow room, however, so you will only be able to go with the tilt-up option if your chosen site is surrounded by open space.
Know Your Wind Speed
Obviously, you need to know if the wind speeds in your area are sufficient to justify the installation of a home wind energy system. There are maps available from online sources like the National Water and Climate Center that can provide data about wind speeds at different elevations in various locations, but you also might want to consult with an expert on wind energy who lives in your area to get their input, since wind maps can sometimes miss certain local peculiarities or inconsistencies.
In most places, once you get up to the elevations where wind turbines will actually be installed you can expect to find average wind speeds of somewhere between six and fourteen miles per hour. For the purposes of a home wind energy system, what you are looking for are average speeds above ten miles per hour, and if you are lucky enough to live in an area where this number reaches fourteen, you need to get your new turbine purchased and installed as fast as you possibly can so you don’t miss out on a fantastic opportunity.
Know Your Local Regulations
Wind energy is unfortunately the quintessential example of an over-regulated industry, and before proceeding, you will need to know exactly what is allowed in your state or local region and what is not. Some really stupid rules exist in some places; for example, some places actually prohibit wind towers from being installed more than sixty feet above the ground, which might make them impossible to install on a lot of homesteads. Setback rules also exist that will force you to locate your wind turbine a certain distance from nearby property lines and roads, and some of these requirements in some places are so demanding that only those who own huge plots of land will have any real chance of meeting them. Even more bizarrely, some jurisdictions actually require you to get your neighbors permission before you install a wind turbine on your land, which is about as outrageous an example of Big Brother in action as you are ever going to hope to find.
Of course, it might be a good idea to sound out your neighbors first anyway to see if they have any objections to your wind-related intentions. If they are worried about the noise, for example, you can let them know that this is hardly ever a problem with home wind systems, or if they are worried about their sight lines being disrupted, you might even want to give them a little input into where and how high your tower will be installed – as long as their wishes aren’t so restrictive that they will render your wind system useless, of course.
Consulting A Wind Buyer’s Guide
So you’ve chosen your site, you know your wind speed at your chosen elevation, and you know what the law will allow you to do on your land. The next step will be to actually choose the wind system you want to purchase, but of course your knowledge of the specific systems and what they can offer may be lacking. Rather than relying on a dealer who will try to sell you whatever means the biggest profit for him, you need to consult a wind buyer’s guide first to get the best information on the different types of home wind power systems that are currently out there and available for sale.
When you look at a well-prepared wind energy buyer’s guide, you can expect to find the following information:
- Name of manufacturer
- Swept area in square feet – this is a measurement of the size of a particular turbine, and the number given will tell you how large of an area a spinning arrangement of blades will cover (obviously, the larger the swept area the more wind energy your system will capture)
- Length of warranty (five years is standard, so beware of sellers that want to give you less)
- Certification – the Small Wind Certification Council has now begun a program that will issue certificates of quality to any home wind energy system that successfully passes its stringent tests. At the present time, twenty-six companies have applied for or are planning to apply for certification for a total of thirty-one different turbines, and as of now seven of these have been given the SWCC official seal of approval
- Predicted annual energy output in kilowatt-hours, based on average wind speed – once you have calculated your own energy consumption, you will know precisely what percentage of your energy needs any system you are considering purchasing would be able to meet.
- A survey of wind installers who will assign grades based on their personal knowledge of the industry and their experiences with each system.
Don’t Be Fooled By False Promises
There are a lot of fly-by-night operators out there who would love nothing better than to separate you from your hard-earned money, if only you would give them the chance. Alternative energy tends to attract a lot of these smooth operators because the enthusiasm for these technologies far outstrips actual knowledge about them among the general public. This is why it is best to consult a wind energy buyer’s guide before making your purchase, which means you will be basing your decisions on information you know has been checked out and verified by trusted sources.
©2012 Off the Grid News