How to Wind Power a Home

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Windmills have been around for 1,300 years, first used in ancient Persia to grind grain. In the United States windmills are part of the classic American Western landscape.


Today, high tech wind turbines have become a source of clean, renewable electrical energy. It's now possible for individuals to generate their own electricity from the wind. Southwest Windpower, is one of several American companies that has developed a wind generator that is designed specifically to power a single house.

  • Check local regulations to see if a wind generator is allowed. Some municipalities have restrictions that prohibit home windmills due to noise. Most local governments will require a building permit to erect a wind tower. Wind speed usually increases with height, so the taller the tower the better. A good rule of thumb is to erect it 20 feet above any nearby structures.

  • Contact a reputable local dealer. He will be familiar with all the local renewal energy incentives that vary widely from state to state. The most generous ones are offered in California, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Maryland. The list keeps expanding. Some incentives will cover up to half the cost of installation.

  • Ask your dealer whether or not your utility will cooperate with net metering. There's a parallel here with solar power where you tie your system into the power grid and your utility will have to pay you for the excess power you generate during periods of heavy wind and low demand on your part. Net metering requires an inverter to change DC power generated by the turbine, to AC used on the grid. If you don't have net metering, you can install a back up battery system to charge when the wind is up. You'll be able to draw down the battery power during calm periods relying on the grid as your electric safety net.

  • Have your dealer analyze the available wind and your power needs. You'd like to have the system handle as much power generation as possible, but unlike solar there is noise to consider. Before deciding on a turbine ask to see that model installed and in use. Note its noise level. One consideration is how much property you own. Another is whether you have neighbors close by. It does you no good to install a turbine at the far end of your lot, if it's near a neighbor's bedroom window. Legally or not, that turbine will soon be shut down.

  • Get an estimate and project your break-even point. When a turbine pays for itself will vary widely depending on the cost of the set up and how much wind your property has.

  • Arrange financing. If you pay for your system with a home equity loan, the interest is tax deductible. Soon you can start to make your own electricity. You can help keep the skies blue by cutting back on fossil fuel use.

Tips & Warnings

  • Windmills were used to pump enough ground water to open the arid plains of the American West to cattle ranching.
  • In a commercial wind farm, towers can stand as high as a 20-story building with blades that stretch 300 feet across, the length of a football field.
  • The wind's kinetic energy spins a set of blades, which are connected to an electric generator. A computer controls the direction of the blades.
  • The United States House of Representatives just passed an energy bill requiring utilities to generate 15% of their energy from renewable resources like wind and solar. If it ultimately becomes law, the bill is expected to spur further technological advancement in wind power generation.

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