Harvesting Wind Power: It’s Easier than You Think

As many of you may or may not know, harvesting wind power is actually quite simple. But due to its relatively young residential age, there are a lot of questions that builders and architects must answer before diving into the wonderful world of wind power.

Residential Design & Build recently published a great article on the subject matter.


For optimal performance, the more open space the better, so the turbine can meet setback and permitting requirements and not conflict with public right of ways. (Be sure to check with your local zoning ordinances and homeowner’s associations to ensure you can in fact put up your own wind turbine). The American Wind Energy Association provides state by state rules for installing a wind turbine. Open space produces better wind quality. Height is also a primary factor – to be effective, a turbine must be set at least 30 feet higher than any obstacles within a 500 foot radius.

Ensuring that your site has the proper wind needed to efficiently and effectively run a small turbine is a large factor to determining is this is a product that you should install. The US Department of Energy has wind maps available to check the wind zones in your area. Obviously if your neighborhood doesn’t get enough wind, installing a turbine will not help. A general rule of thumb when determining if your site produces enough wind is if you can fly a kite above your house, you have enough wind to install a small turbine system.

Another factor is distance from the house. The actual electrical connection between the house and turbine isn’t a huge factor, but copper wire is expensive. The farther from the house, the more expensive the wiring becomes. Ultimately the positing of a turbine is up to the homeowners and their aesthetic preferences.

Fears about installing a Small Turbine System

There are a lot of myths and fears revolving around wind turbine systems – most of which are false. The number one complaint about wind turbines are that they are perceived to be detrimental to birds. This is simply untrue. Fear stems from the first wind turbine farm that went up in the 1980’s. Because it was the first, there were factors that weren’t taken into consideration and the farm was erected in a migratory pattern. The problem was quickly corrected and we are happy to report that bird related deaths due to wind turbines are almost nil. You probably hit more with your car or you squeaky clean windows than with a wind turbine.

Other negative implications against small wind turbines simply hold no truth. No water consumption, small land use and no emissions make this an environmentally sound way to produce natural energy for consumption. Lastly, is that pesky noise factor. Many are afraid to put up a turbine in fear that the noise will upset neighbors and keep them awake at night. At operating speed, the sound emitted by a turbine (like a whooshing sound) is usually masked by the sound of the wind itself.

But They’re Expensive

A residential turbine will typically run homeowners between $10,000 and $60,000, depending on the size of your home and how much of the home you want to power with the turbine. Typically a $10,000 system will power 20-60% of your home and a $60,000 system will power your entire home.

But before you go installing a turbine, make sure that your home is efficient. An inefficient home with a wind turbine may not reduce your energy savings by much – thus taking longer to return your initial investment. If your home is not energy efficient to begin with, you might want to take the money you would spend on installing a wind turbine and fix any leaks you have in your home first.

Tax Credits and Incentives

Energy related tax credits have boomed in recent years. Wind turbines were first included in federal tax incentives when the October 2008 Stimulus Bill passed. The first bill introduced for a small wind system of 100 kW covered about 30% of the total installed cost. That number has since increased when in February 2009 the cap was removed, creating major growth in the small turbine wind market. Under the new bill, it is a one-time credit, but any sale within the past 8 years from February 2009 qualifies.

In addition to federal tax incentives, those installing a small wind turbine system can also receive incentives through federal grant programs and most individual states offer loans, rebates and tax credits for installing a system. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency website helps you navigate potential financial incentives for small turbine systems.

All in all, if you are able to install a small wind turbine system at your home, don’t be afraid of it. The process isn’t as hard as one might expect, and your local installer is trained in site assessment and can make the process very smooth and enjoyable for you.

The Green Life Smart Life house is a perfect location for installing a wind turbine, but unfortunately the homeowner’s association turned down the proposal. According to them, a turbine would be “unsightly”. Little do they realize that a turbine large enough could actually power the entire neighborhood with the amount of wind produced by the bay!

Posted by: Lauren