Questions to Ask Before Buying a Wind Turbine

Wind turbine in field

Wind turbine in field

With wind turbine technology growing so rapidly in recent years, wind energy has grown into a viable, cost-competitive energy resource that has attracted consumer interest like never before. Wind farms are now seen both onshore and offshore as companies realize the profit that can be made in selling wind-generated power. Governments and utilities are turning to them to satisfy the demands of their energy-hungry citizens and some homeowners are even going off the grid thanks in part to wind energy.

Wind turbines are classified according to how they apply mechanical energy. Windmills and wind pumps harness wind energy to pump water or grind grain whereas wind generators and wind chargers use wind to generate electricity. Most people considering a wind turbine for their home are looking at a wind generator. Wind turbines can be used for a variety of applications—for the home, farm or boat to charge batteries or to provide electricity directly to the grid. Small wind turbines come in two basic varieties, the horizontal axis and vertical axis.

First questions to ask

So you’ve decided that you want to use wind energy to generate your home’s electricity, or at least a part of it. The first thing you have to ask yourself is whether you want to purchase wind energy from a green energy provider or generate it yourself with your own wind turbine?

Next comes the obvious question of whether there actually is enough wind to warrant buying a turbine for your home. If you live in a really wind-poor or wind-rich part of the world the decision will be a simple one to make, but if you’re borderline it will require measuring the wind with an anemometer to make that assessment.

Further considerations

Then you have to consult your local government to find out the rules and regulations governing wind turbine installation:

What siting requirements and restrictions exist for your area?

At your local government office ask what the smallest property size and the minimum setback from property lines is to install a wind turbine. You also need to find out if there are any height restrictions and noise ordinances. The answers to these questions will determine whether you’re allowed to install a wind turbine and if so, how large and how loud it can be.

Do you need special approvals or permits to get your installation approved?

Contact your local utility and municipal permitting office to find out what documents they need. Will the documentation from the turbine manufacturer or dealer satisfy their requirements or will you need to hire an engineer to give them what they need?

Consider what your neighbors’ reaction will be—will they put up resistance?

The NIMBY (not in my backyard) factor for wind power is huge. Don’t underestimate your neighbors’ ability to obstruct your plans, but at the same time don’t let the potential threat of resistance hold you back. You can avoid potential problems by writing up a letter outlining your intention to install a wind turbine, including the type of turbine, how large it is, how far it will be set back, and how loud it is. In most cases, respecting neighbors by informing them in this way will alleviate potential problems and answer any questions they may have.

Can you connect your turbine to the grid? If so, what are the requirements?

Contact your local government and utility to find out what the requirements are to connect to the grid. When speaking to the utility also ask whether they offer net-metering—an arrangement in which the utility pays the consumer for energy they feed back to them.

If you’re lucky enough have adequate wind and have worked your way through the previous questions, it’s time to get on to the fun part—buying your turbine! A wind turbine is a long-term purchase, so you’ll need to put a lot of thought into your decision. The first step is to determine your energy needs to size your turbine . Finally, choosing the turbine itself.

Stay tuned for following sections of the Buyer’s Guide to Wind Turbines in the coming weeks or join our free newsletter to download the entire guide>>

[box]by UB Hawthorn[/box]

image:  (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND)

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