How to Choose a Wind Turbine

Wind power is one of the fastest-growing sectors of energy production on the planet. Even though the burning of fossil fuels still dominates the energy landscape – not only because of the way machinery and technology has been developed to utilize it, but also because of a lack of political will to change things when so many major political parties receive large donations from coal, oil and gas companies – ‘greener’ sources of energy such as wind are becoming a more frequent part of the conversation about how we will provide the energy we need on a planet that has reached peak oil and continues to add to its population.

There are several reasons why wind is a valuable source of energy production. Besides not polluting the atmosphere as the combustion of fossil fuels does, wind power is green because it is sustainable. As long as the wind blows (and winds will blow as long as the sun shines, because winds are caused by the heating of the atmosphere by the sun, in combination with the irregularities in the Earth’s surface and rotation of the planet) it can be harnessed to produce energy. And, another benefit, wind is free. Wind power does require some investment in the first instance, via the purchase of turbines and related generators and batteries, but after that the cost of producing energy is minimal. And compared to other sources of energy production, wind power uses very little space.

While wind farms run by government agencies and private organizations are dotted around the county, and some farmers have taken to installing turbines on their land to bring their energy bills down, permaculture gardeners can also harness this great green source of power to provide energy on their site. As mentioned, the permaculturist will need to make the initial investment in the technology, but once installed the energy created is very cheap to produce – and may even provide you with a source of income.

Assess
You will first need to assess whether your site will benefit from a wind turbine. Assess the amount and direction of the wind that your site gets. As a general rule you want your site to experience average wind speeds of at least ten miles per hour. This will be affected by the surrounding topography of the land, as well as the placement of items like buildings and trees, which can interrupt and divert airflow. Most rural locations are likely to have sufficient wind to merit a wind turbine, but in urban areas there may be too many obstacles for it to be efficient.

Regulations
Urban areas are more likely to have planning and ordnance restrictions on the use of wind turbines. Such restrictions can make the turbine inefficient, and it may be advisable to explore other renewable energy options such as solar power in such locations. Consult your local municipal authority to check on any permission required for installation. Even in rural locations there may be restrictions on the minimum size of a plot for siting a turbine or on the minimum distance the device must be from the property boundary. It is also a good idea to talk to your neighbors to allay any fears they may have about the installation.

Choose
There are two types of wind turbine for domestic use: off-grid and grid-connected. Off-grid systems produce power that is fed directly into the property’s electrical system – either via a transformer or into batteries that can then be appended to an electrical device – while grid-connected systems are attached to the municipal electricity supply. This can have two benefits. Firstly, if the wind conditions do not produce enough power for the needs of the property, the municipal system can ’top up’ the supply, and secondly, if the turbine produces more energy than the permaculturist needs, it can be sold into the municipal system, generating income for the homeowner and reducing the need for energy produced by burning fossil fuels. Check with your local supplier about their arrangements for feed-in schemes.

Size
Domestic wind turbines range is size from around two kilowatts to approximately ten kilowatts. The actual size the permaculture gardener will need will depend on factors including the average wind speed in their locations, the height that the turbine will be placed at, and the energy needs of the property. For instance, if you are looking to use wind power to fuel your home and certain garden devices, such as air pumps for aquaculture systems or pumps to move harvested rainwater around the site, you may need a larger turbine than someone just looking to power part of their home consumption.

Position
The higher the wind turbine the more electricity it will produce. An ideal location would by on an exposed hillside that is free from obstructions that can cause turbulence, such as buildings, trees and very undulating topography. In urban areas, effectiveness is restricted by surrounding buildings and as mentioned, the likelihood of height restrictions.

Install
There are two primary means of securing a pole-mounted wind turbine: with line tethers or with the base set in concrete. The latter is wind turbineadvisable for taller structures or those that experience strong winds, as it gives more stability, and unless you can pour concrete yourself, you may need to hire someone to perform this task. Tethering involves using guidelines to secure the pole holding the turbine, and is suitable for lower wind speed areas and shorter structures. In urban locations, it is more common to install the turbine on the structure of the house, by bracketing to an outside wall so the turbine is higher than the roofline.

Maintenance
It is recommended that a qualified technician checks the wind turbine once a year to ensure that it is still securely installed and that the energy supply is being correctly harnessed and utilized, particularly if using a grid-connected system that could be earning you money from feed-in tariffs. Check with your home insurer whether your policy covers wind turbines in case of damage or required repairs.

36 comments

I hoped you’d tell us about different styles of turbine. And this article is old–maybe 6 years or more? Peak oil has been pushed out again. More reserves now in the US & many other countries than at any time in history.

I wouldn’t take their word on that peak oil issue if I were you in the least Leah. First of all “reserves” don’t really exist in the US if there is oil and it is possible to get at it in any conceivable manner it is already being gotten.

Since 2008 there’s been a drilling revolution. Computerized drilling, horizontal drilling, & hydraulic fracturing have opened up tremendous amounts of oil in the Bakken in North Dakota, gas in the other major shale plays, & a lot of minor petroleum producing areas in the US. People who haven’t seen this don’t realize the scale of industrialization that’s been happening. Saudi Arabia is producing more oil to lower prices & make our domestic production less desirable, the big ‘conventional’ or ‘conflict’ gas countries are supporting anti-fracking propaganda, & meanwhile, manufacturing is coming back to the U.S., because we once again have abundant cheap energy & moderate labor costs.

Two books I like are “The Boom” & “Groundswell.”

Mike Haydon

It is possible to make these wind turbines much safer, more economical and easier to service. Wind can be diverted and concentrated; we know that the optimal angle of attack for airfoils is around 5 to 6 degrees. If we used deployed sails with an angle of incidence of 15 degrees (two sides at 30 degrees to each other) you would get a good concentration of wind momentum without too much drag loss. There are examples of this design yet none in the configuration that I’ve just described, as far as I know. The principle is described in Manifold Enhanced Wind Power Technology. Examples of using static shapes to focus wind are common such as the wind lens and the Sheerwind Invelox design.

http://www.theecoreport.com/green-blogs/technology/wind/the-next-technological-breakthrough-in-wind-energy-the-invelox/

I have chosen 100% green energy (first time for me) to power my home. Feeling proud

Problem with wind turbines is that they take more energy to put up than they will ever produce.

I don’t believe so Will.

The Big one’s around here , kill birds by the 1000’s… ;-( . the little ones are good, cost way less & produce more then they cost to put up & run…

I have never seen a dead bird under a wind turbine.

Then you are wrong William Smith.. this is why we’re fucked. They say there good so you follow blindly. Shame

They are extremely noisy.

We have a Whisper 80 wind genny augmenting our Solar PV & micro hydro power system. It can howl in a big storm, but is not usually very noisy.

Not one here! Closest is about 50 miles away!

Want to install one this year

I think we are kin, somehow! Haha

Will not ever– bird chomping Eco crucifixes are NOT green. I’ve talked to people who have had to abandon their property because of these things… Please do some research before signing a deal with the devil!

I tried several models then switched to solar. Too noisy and barely produced any electricity.

I would like a small one for our silo!

Can’t stand the whiny noise.

Definitely not cost effective for a farmstead unless in it for a long time. Maintenance and other issues, too.

I like the European idea of smaller ones that look like trees and blend into the landscape. Maintenance is much easier at ground level.

I’m not a fan of gin poles or climbing towers…and doing mechanical work…our PV panels have done well by us, and we started early…in 84…off grid ever since. And…at the current price of panels, folks are foolish to not install them…a friend just bought 2.7 kW of pv panels (29.7 volts) for 1870 US dollars.

The big difference between fossil fuels and wind ( i areas where its actually windy) is the need to buy fuel. There is so much advancement with turbines, maybe soon if will make sense to use them.

If I didn’t disturb anyone with shadow, let alone the noise.

make one with plastic snow shovel blades

We do wind friendly gardens!… fineartgardening.com

i understand that wind turbines create a lot of vibration/humming noise

I have a windmill wind direction indicator (Lawn ornament lol! It belongs to the owner, we rent.) I’m curious about what you all say about them being noisy because this little thing barely makes any noise. Would that be because of it’s composition or size or both? I’m in the process of renovating a trailer as my permanent residence and want to use solar and wind power. The more information I can get the better. TIA

birds don’t seem to get along with them…..

Misleading and old.

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