Know the Facts
Why should I install a wind turbine?
There is only one answer to this question and it is because you have a passion for wind turbines. Secondary reasons can be that wind is renewable and non-polluting, using it helps to protect the environment, reduces dependency on fossil fuels, increases self-sufficiency, and protects you from future electricity price increases. There will be many challenges on your journey to installing a wind turbine and only the strong-willed will have the perseverance. The average time from when someone makes the commitment to install a wind turbine until it is operational is two years.
Location, Location, Location
The amount of wind at your site is critical because wind speed determines the amount of energy a turbine will produce. The energy in the wind increases exponentially with increases in wind speed; a small increase in wind speed with yield a huge increase in potential energy. For example, a 10kW turbine at a site with an average annual wind speed of 10 miles per hour produces about 10,000 kWh per year, approximately the annual electric needs of a small house. With an average annual wind speed of only 8 miles per hour, the same turbine will only produce about 5,400 kWh per year. An increase from 8 to 10 mph almost doubles the output of the system. Not every site is ideal for a wind turbine.
How do I find out if there is enough wind on my site?
The amount of wind can vary significantly over an area of just a few miles because local terrain can greatly influence wind flow. There are many resources that you can use to help determine the amount of wind in your area:
- Use the wind resource maps available from NYS Residential-Scale Wind Resource Map. Keep in mind that these maps provide only an estimate of the wind resource in your area; don’t be discouraged if your initial reading seems low. A wind installer can help determine the actual potential for a wind energy system at your site.
- Observe the vegetation in your area for signs of consistent wind flow, such as trees that are permanently deformed by strong winds.
- Wind speeds increase with height above the ground. There is also less turbulence in the wind. You should always consider a taller tower and evaluate the economics.
How do I choose the best site for my wind turbine?
The amount, speed, and direction of wind can vary within the same property. You also need to consider existing obstacles and future obstructions such as new buildings or trees that have not reached their full height. If you live in complex terrain, you will want to work with an experienced wind installer to select the best installation site.
Do I have enough space for a wind turbine?
You should have at least an acre of land with a suitable location set back from trees, buildings, power lines, and property lines.
Can I install a wind turbine in an urban environment?
Yes, but it will a challenge to find a location that will make the project an economical investment. Micro-siting becomes extremely important. On one building, moving the turbine twenty feet would have doubled its annual output. The building must also be designed or modified to handle the vibration and additional stress the turbine will impose upon the structure.
What permits and approvals do I need?
You should speak with local representatives to determine any building permits, electrical permits, approvals, and certifications that are needed prior to installing a wind system. The permits and approvals you need depend on many factors, including whether the system meets the requirements to receive incentive funding from NYSERDA or if your wind turbine is connected to the electric grid. Your wind installer and local utility can help you comply with all rules and regulations and receive all necessary approvals before your system is up and running.
Is a wind turbine a good investment?
Energy-efficiency improvements may be more cost-effective, solar electric projects may require less maintenance, but people are drawn to wind systems and the fascination of watching a wind turbine spin. Installing a wind turbine will require a major commitment of time and money; you will need to invest both to have a successful project you can then enjoy for many years.
I'm still interested, where do I go from here?
Read Frequently Asked Questions [PDF] and Success Stories to get a bigger picture of the benefits and simple pleasures of owning a wind turbine.