Wind Turbines: Power Away from the Grid
Wind has long been used for power. Windmills have been used for hundreds of years to grind grain, among other things, but these eco-friendly powerhouses have come a long way from their humble beginnings. Now, wind power is used across the globe. The US alone is looking to have a full 20 percent of its energy provided by wind by the year 2030. Applications range from providing electricity to major metropolitan areas to powering remote cabins.
Chasing Windmills: So You've Gone Off the Grid
Speaking of remote cabins, getting power when you're far away from civilization isn't an easy task. Solar power isn't always a viable option, thanks to cloud and tree cover--not to mention its limited availability closer to the poles. Wind, like a constantly flowing river defying you to take advantage of its awesome power, however, is everywhere.
In addition to the unparalleled availability of wind power, there are often tax breaks available from state and federal sources. The new US stimulus packages include a 30 percent investment tax credit to help home and small business owners make the switch to wind power.
Simply by installing a few wind turbines on your property, you can help the environment (wind turbines produce clean, renewable energy), get tax credits, and meet all of your power needs (one 10-kilowatt turbine can power an average home, if placed in the right location). This is the twenty-first century, not even a cabin in the woods should be without electricity.
How to Get Started: The Answer is Blowing in the Wind
Premium suppliers of wind turbines, like EcoDirect, make it easy to find the right turbines for any area, to meet any home's needs. Before you start ordering, though, consider the following:
Technical Prowess: Many new wind-turbine systems require little expertise to install, but you need to be willing to put in a few hours of work to get everything set up. If you don't feel comfortable, as with any home improvement project, call a contractor.
Wind Direction: Figuring out the best place on your property for a wind turbine can make or break its ability to produce electricity. Any turbines should sit at least 20 feet higher than the tallest structure or tree around your home. Be sure to take this into account when choosing a turbine. The US
government has provided wind resource maps (http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_maps.asp) to help you calculate potential electricity production.
AC/DC: As with most other renewable, off-the-grid options, wind turbines generate DC power, which isn't compatible with most all home appliances. Luckily, converting from DC to AC doesn't require much more than a little retrofitting and a transformer/inverter.
Cost and Your Tower: Obviously, the lower to the ground your turbine is, the more there is in the way to block the wind, so you'll want a relatively tall tower. While guyed lattice towers are the most economical, a hinged tower makes self installation and maintenance easy. Turbines come with towers ranging from 30 to 50 feet tall for smaller turbines all the way up to 120 footers for large turbines; be sure to pick the right one for your needs.
Cost versus Benefit and Return on Investment
A small turbine costs anywhere from $6,000 to $22,000 depending on a number of issues, most notably whether or not you have it professionally installed. You're likely to see a savings of over $25,000 over the lifespan of your turbine with proper maintenance, which offsets even the high end of the spectrum. Most turbines are in it for the long haul, meaning that you can stop worrying about whether or not anything will happen when you flip that light switch for the next thirty years. Go green; get a wind turbine to power your hideaway in the woods.
Energy Association, Wind Energy FAQ
CNN.com, Stimulus may get small wind turbines spinning, by William Armsby
US Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 20% Wind
Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy's Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply