There is a growing interest lately in the cost of wind energy compared to standard on-the-grid power. Global climate change, along with an increased awareness and concern for the environment, has brought the topic of harnessing the power of the wind into the mainstream.
No longer just for those who are too isolated to tap into standard power grids, wind energy technology has advanced significantly in the past decade. Many homeowners who are considering the options for using wind as an energy source and wondering how much does wind power cost?
Wind turbines are used for converting kinetic wind energy into electricity, as opposed to windmills, which directly turn machinery such as cutting lumber. The basic parts of a wind turbine are a rotor, a generator or alternator, a tower, wiring and a tail.
Most turbines are made of fiberglass and have two or three blades. The term "balance of systems" is used to describe the combination of controller, inverter and wiring to generate electricity. Off-grid systems require storage batteries and a charge controller to capture energy for when the wind is not blowing.
The cost of wind energy can vary widely depending on the materials used, how often the wind blows and the average wind speed.
The cost of wind energy may or may not be low enough to justify the financial investment. Wind power is most practical if you live in a rural area of an acre or more, and receive a fairly reliable and steady wind. Be sure to check local zoning laws before spending any money. Families with an energy bill of at least $150.00 a month are most likely to benefit from using wind power.
There's a variety of wind turbine sizes, which generate between 20 watts and 1000 kilowatts. Typical home use is 10,000 kilowatt-hours per year, or 830 kilowatt-hours per month. Wind turbines are rated by kilowatt-hours.
The size of your wind turbine should also include the height of a tower, as wind speeds are faster above the ground, away from the turbulence of trees, buildings and hills.
Raising a 10-kilowatt generator mounted on a 60-foot tower to a 100-foot tower increases the cost of wind energy by 10 percent but generates a 29 percent increase in power.
The general guideline for towers is to ensure the rotor blades are no less than 30 feet above all obstacles that are within 300 feet of the tower. Tilt-down towers can be more costly but make maintenance on small turbines safer and easier.
There are wind turbine dealers who will do all the installation, if desired. Those who wish to install their own system should have sufficient electrical knowledge to ensure safety when working with wiring and batteries.
The wind tower will need a cement foundation, which can add to the cost of wind energy. Setting up the tower can be dangerous so it's worth paying for help on this part of the project.
Additionally, consider ongoing maintenance requirements when you are estimating wind energy cost. Most blades or bearings need replacement every 10 years. Annual maintenance is essential to ensure bolts are still tight, electrical connections aren't corroded and guy wires have the proper tension.
There are many variables that influence the amount of electricity created by a wind turbine, which in turn influence cost. Look for the manufacturer's rating information which will tells how much power the turbine can safely generate at a given wind speed.
The usual speeds listed range from 24 mph to 36 mph. Also, check the annual energy output in kilowatts per year. You can find a Wind Energy Payback Period Workbook at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory website for help in calculating the cost of wind energy based on your particular situation.
The differences in price for a wind turbine can vary based on local permit laws and zoning. The average cost of a small wind turbine can be a low of $3,000 and as much as $50,000, counting installation costs.
According to the American Wind Energy Association the average wind energy cost for a home system averages around $32,000. Typically, the cost for a residential turbine is between $1,000 and $5,000 per kilowatt. Look for government programs that offer rebates and incentives for installing wind power systems.
For those who want to generate wind power off-grid there are hybrid systems, which ensure power when the wind stops blowing. These systems use a combination of photovoltaic technology and wind technology to take advantage of summer sunshine, which typically produces lower wind speeds.
Alternatively, winds are higher in the winter, when sunshine is limited. These systems can increase the cost of wind energy but can give that off-grid independence that some people desire. A hybrid system is practical for areas with an average annual wind of 9 miles per hour.
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