The Pros & Cons Of Residential Wind Power

Wind power works best in areas with steady directional winds. You see the most use of wind turbines in flatter landscapes with few obstructions such as large open rangeland, coastlines, etc. These spaces are large enough to put multiple turbines and increase the chance of profitability.

A smaller space doesn’t mean some wind energy cannot be harnessed but for large scale wind power for residential use, large wind power operations and major infrastructure would be needed.

The Pros & Cons Of Residential Wind Power

Cut in speed

Wind turbines do not start generating power until winds reach a certain threshold. A low cut in speed is about 5-8 mph. You need to make sure you read the cut in speed before you buy a turbine to make sure it is practical for your property.

Areas where winds happen often but are not steady means the turbine is not going to generate power effectively. Be suspicious of turbines that have to good to be true claims about cut in speeds.

Appearance of Turbines

There are things that can be done to make turbines more attractive but they still take up a lot of space on a landscape. If you are in a neighborhood there is no guarantee that your neighbors are going to appreciate your contribution to the view. In some communities there may be height restrictions and other rules about what you can put up. If you are member of a homeowners association you may want to double check rules before you invest in your wind system.

Coastlines with steady winds are a popular place for wind farms but some areas have fought against this form of power due to the effect on the appearance of the shoreline. Some places that rely on tourism heavily have decided not to allow wind turbines at all.

On calm days, you have no power unless you have a lot stored in batteries.

Battery banks are essential to getting the most our of wind power. You have to have the storage to harness the energy when it is there for the taking. If you draw off your batteries and then have no wind for a few days you could find yourself short on power if you don’t have adequate back up.

Wind turbines at remote locations require transmission lines.

Just like regular electricity, wind power has to sent to where it is needed. This means wind farms need to be close to where power is needed to prevent energy losses from becoming greater than desired.

For large scale residential power there would need to be some major wind farms. Since wide open spaces are not always close to where the power needs to go there would need to be transmission lines ran which would require regular upkeep and be susceptible to inclement weather.

What some do not realize is that when any type of power is transmitted through a line, there is some loss of power. The further the energy has to travel, the greater the loss. There are ways to reduce some energy loss but there is always going to be some.

Wind power has to compete with other land usage that may be more profitable.

Wind turbines located where real estate is hot may not be considered realistic. A good view can have a positive impact on property values. Some people consider the sight and noise of turbines unappealing so property values and tourism could be impacted.

Just because an area seems perfect for wind doesn’t mean it is cost effective. Most people that are invested in property are going to choose a use they can live with and make the most money at if the property is an investment. That means that if housing is in short supply for example, land is going to be used for a development rather than a wind farm.

Although the cost of setting up a turbine farm has decreased, it is still a high enough level of initial investment that it makes those with some of the resources approach it with much caution.

Turbines can result in bird death.

Birds are not smart about turbines. They simply don’t know what they are so by the time they realize they are in trouble it is too late. The larger the turbine the more of this you are going to see.

You can do some things to discourage birds from making it to your turbine like putting out feeders in a different area of your property but even doing this you can still expect to see some bird casualties.

Wind energy does mean buying and maintaining batteries.

The manufacture and disposal of batteries over time is the one major environmental impact of wind turbines besides the death of birds. Good batteries can be a substantial investment. Four batteries can easily cost $400 but if they are maintained well then they will last you for many years.

It can generate income for some land owners.

Wind farms can be combined with farming enterprises such as grazing cattle, sheep, or goats. Some may even grow grain crops below the turbines. Some landowners rent the space out to someone that puts up the investment capital to start the wind farm, thus avoiding any upfront cost and generating some rent.

If you have a good location for wind power it is possible that you could generate some income by selling energy back to the grid. Some power companies may have better rates than others so it is best to check it out to see how quick you can expect to see a return on your investment.

Of course if you own rangeland that is grazed and has steady winds you could combine the two methods of generating income. Wind power can be a positive addition to land that is not useful for a lot of other things.

Ridge tops with sporadic gusty winds can be disastrous.

In the mountains of North Carolina there have been attempts to have large wind turbines on ridge tops and the results have been the props being torn off in high wind storms. Gusts in storms can be pretty dramatic here.

To put it in perspective, we live at 3000 feet on the side of a mountain and we were required to build our small house to specifications that could stand up to 120 mph winds in order to meet building codes and legally occupy our home. A true ridge top can see some high winds indeed and has little wind breaks around them.

Noise levels may be a bit much for some.

Wind turbines are not silent when in operation. The more you have and the larger they are the more noise you can expect. If you and others live close by the noise might combine to an unpleasant level. You can expect a noise level of up to 60 decibels with a single turbine. Even if the actual level of noise is not too much for you, the consistency of it is also something to consider.

Wind power is a good supplement to other power systems.

A lot of people have a wind turbine but they also have a solar power system. This allows for wind power to kick in and charge batteries faster when there is wind but the user has the solar system for more reliable power. This can be a good way to go about it if you like the idea of some wind power but know that it is not consistent enough to rely on for major daily energy needs.

Can require significant clearing of land.

A serious wind turbine farm could require quite a bit of land clearing which can have a whole array of environmental consequences. Even if you want just one turbine if you have a lot of trees and not much clear space you may be looking at a larger logging operation than you bargained for.

Assessing Your Property For Wind Power

One of the first steps is just to be honest with yourself about how much wind you get at your place. Specific data for your area may be available from nearby weather stations. Wunderground is a good source of small independent weather stations that can provide useful information.

Some areas have so many micro climates that this data might not be quite as useful as in some areas. I know where I am at on the mountain makes for different climatic conditions than those a few miles as the crow flies. We often have snow melt off fast while the snow stays on the ground for days longer sometimes up the road from us.

Snow and ice can damage turbines.

Ice can accumulate on turbines and cause damage. If you have a lot of ice storms in the winter you need to think about that. Some people simply take the prop off their turbine if they know a lot of inclement weather is on the horizon.

There is nothing wrong with some seasonal wind power if that is what you have to do but it does make it seem like a slightly less good deal than something you can use year round. Solar panels stay warm enough to withstand some levels of snow and ice.

Starting Small

If you don’t have much experience with renewable energy produced at home then starting small and learning as you go could be a good move. You can always get a bigger turbine later.

There are advantages to small ones because they can be placed more easily in neighborhoods and do not require as large of a structure to support them. This gives you a chance to see how well it will work on your place before investing in a larger turbine.

Safety First

Putting together a turbine is not difficult but you do want to make sure everything is well secured. A prop or other parts flying off in any direction could cause serious injury or damage surroundings.

It doesn’t take much of a gust of wind to cause a problem if something is not secured well. Take your time and do not get in a hurry. 

Turbines are low maintenance not no maintenance.

Once you have a turbine set up it can be easy to just roll with it and let it do its thing without thinking about maintenance. Occasionally you should go over your turbine and make sure that nothing has worked its way loose or become damaged in any way.

This is especially important if your prop has been exposed to any extreme weather systems. It is better to take a few minutes to check things out rather than risk more serious damages or create a safety hazard.

Saving money on set up.

There are ways to save money on some of the set up costs. For example you could mount a small turbine on the roof of your house rather than constructing a tower. This also means your turbine is not taking up other space on your property and is well out of reach of kids or animals climbing on it.

Just doing it yourself is going to save you a ton of money compared to what an energy expert from a solar installer or similar will charge you.

The problems with professional renewable power system installation for residential use are numerous. A contractor is likely to install your system a specific way that is designed to just feed power back into the grid.

This results in a system where the grid tie box shuts down your system when the grid goes down because they do not want you feeding power back into the grid when there is an outage. The logic is that repairs to the grid requires no current that could shock crews or harm equipment.

There is no battery back up in a typical grid tie system. This means you are kind of defeating the purpose that probably led you to wanting a renewable energy system in the first place.

A separate smaller system or the possibility of a hybrid system of sorts are your options for grid down power. Perhaps there are contractors out there that will be more flexible in regards to the system they install. The important thing to remember is that if you hire a contractor for any renewable energy work you need to be very clear of what you want so they can tell you if it is even possible or legal.

Any system that is beyond the normal needs to be discussed throughly and planned out well to avoid disappointment or added unforeseen expenses in the future.

Generating revenue from your home system might not be as feasible as you think

The advantages of a grid tie system is that you may be able to generate enough power to get revenue paid to you. Rates vary widely. Grid tie boxes are not cheap to install. In my home state of North Carolina the power companies destroyed any chances of solar or any form of renewable energy such as wind paying back the customer in a reasonable amount of time.

Rates paid to those feeding back into the grid were reduced from $0.09 a kilowatt hour to a paltry $0.01! This was a big financial hit for those that had already made an investment in greener and more sustainable energy for everyone.

Having to maintain a separate back up system is not something some preppers are prepared for.

Then you need to add in the cost of having a smaller separate system for your own energy needs for when the grid is down. Power companies have a lot of control over that main system because it is illegal to send power back into the grid without their approval.

Sorting through the legalities and troubleshooting grid tie set ups

I have just touched on some basics about a very complicated subject. It is essential that you check with your local power company and learn the rates and rules in your area if you want to sell power back. A major renewable energy system is a big investment for most us and deserves the due diligence required to make a well informed decision.

Wind turbines are affordable and you can even make your own

There are some very creative folks out there that have made their own turbines. If you don’t want to fool with all that though you are in luck because turbines are very inexpensive.

Energy from wind is one of the cleaner energy sources you can harness.

Wind energy is definitely less polluting then the coal fired power plants and nuclear options out there and doesn’t generate a ton of waste.

Choosing Your Starter Turbine

I spent some time looking at various turbines and came to the conclusion that a lot of the lower priced ones get some pretty negative reviews. What this says is that while the cost of turbines seems to have went down, it has opened up the market to include some real garbage that is going to be frustrating to say the least.

I would say plan on spending at least $500 on a turbine and $1500 if you want something large. The price seems to be about $0.60 to $1 a watt for any turbine that has a decent level of customer satisfaction. This budget includes some of the extras you will need. On Amazon there is a kit that caught my eye because it is such a good deal for a prepper’s starter renewable energy system.

ECO-WORTHY 24 Volts 600 Watts Wind Solar Power: 12V/24V 400W Wind Turbine + 2pcs 12V 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel + 24cm Cable with MC4 Connector

This is a fantastic deal for those that want to play with several power methods and keep costs down. It is amazing that shipping is also included in this cost. When we bought our panels the shipping costs were significant. I like this kit because it gives a prepper options. If the wind is not going you still have the solar panels to provide you with some backup power.

You do of course need to buy one or more batteries and a pole or something to mount your turbine one so there are some additional expenses to consider.

Popsport Wind Generator 400W Hybrid Wind Turbine Generator DC 12V/24V Turbine Wind Generator 3 Blades Light and Powerful Wind Generator Kit for Home Use

This little turbine caught my attention because it gets at least a few good reviews and it is affordable for those that want to start their exploration of wind power. The small size makes it realistic for a small residential application such as your porch roof. The super low cut in speed is worth noting too.

This is not a turbine I would trust in places that get extremely high winds as it is really just made for small scale use but for some folks it is an excellent start.

Conclusion: Wind energy can work in the right place

Look around you and see what others are doing for renewable energy. Areas like the midwest may be an excellent place to harness some wind power. Parts of Texas are particularly well suited. Down here in the southeastern US solar is a better option for a lot of us. Go down to the coast where there are some steady winds and that can change.

When it comes to renewable energy, success is dependent on people realizing the uniqueness of their climate and topography and going with the system or combination of systems that makes the best use of time, money, and resources. There is no one size fits all renewable power system.

What has been your experience with wind energy? Do you have any favorite turbine manufacturers?

The team at Backdoor Survival would love to hear from those that have built and used their own turbines. Also please let us know your experiences with selling power back to the grid. We look forward to learning together so please comment below!

Author Bio

Samantha Biggers lives on a mountain in North Carolina with her husband and pack of loyal hounds in a house her husband and she built themselves. When not writing she is working in their vineyard, raising Shetland sheep, or helping her husband with whatever the farm and vineyard can throw at them.


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9 Responses to “The Pros & Cons Of Residential Wind Power”

  1. I find the cost of 4 batteries for $400.00 a bit unrealistic here in Australia i bought 2 batteries for my caravan 125 amps deep cycle gell at a cost of $309.00 each so i don’t know about 4 for $400.00 unless they are small amperage.apart from that the article was good .

    Reply
    • My estimate was based on lead acid batteries and not gel cells. In the US you can get batteries at the auto parts stores for around $100 but they are low amperage compared to what you bought so that explains the lower cost. Your batteries are definitely higher quality than what I was talking about.

  2. I have experimented with both small wind a solar off grid. The type of turbine you suggest will not not make enough power to run anything but a small light or two. The solar is much cheaper and easier to install and operate for a beginner.

    Reply
    • I definitely agree that solar is cheaper, easier to install, and more reliable overall for most out there. Where I live in NC the winds we get are not reliable enough to justify any major investment in wind. I love the idea of wind power but we have decided to not bother even trying here. There are some places where it is a lot more practical than others. There have been some major solar farms added in our area. A few tried some turbines but found out that gusty winds and storms make too troublesome to continue.

  3. I’ve noticed that a lot of blogs that talk about wind power only show images about wind turbines that look like aircraft propellers. There are other designs out there. Any reason why the other designs aren’t mentioned?

    Reply
    • Good question Karl. To be honest with you I just concentrated on the most common design. After reading your question I did find an article that has some info on vertical turbines. Here is a link http://centurionenergy.net/types-of-wind-turbines. Perhaps in the future we will do an article comparing different types of turbines besides propeller style. In the meantime, I encourage folks to read the comparisons in the link above if they are considering wind power.Thanks for the input and for reading. There is always so much to learn and explore when it comes to renewable energy.

  4. the time for wind power is not after the crisis hits. experiment with building small systems that run a few yard lights and some in the house and keep your cell phones charged when you find something that works and with dependable regularity then you know what you can add after a crisis that would provide nearly all your lighting. many people dont realize how much an incandescent lamp takes in power. even a forty watt lamp. get some lamps at the dollartree. they have some that are two for a dollar. they have forty and sixty watt sizes. I find them reliable and while they say they are not dimable they dim for me. I have installed them outside this year to see what they will do in freezing weather. with these lamps your battery life would be extended I did a rough calculation and I can light six of the led lamps for one incandescent. it is better to have combination wind and sun sources charging your batteries. any device that has a motor will usea lot of energy. a furnace with a blower motor for one one way of making batteries last longer with a motor is run the motor continuous at low speed. when you start a motor it draws 300% more than running current. if your batteries are low this current is driven up trying to start the motor this can cause damage to the motor. having enough batteries to run your home is critical. two sets with one charging will allow proper charging. it will also allow bettor monitoring of the other set so they dont discharge too far. and as always install your equipment and batteries with proper ventilation. lead acid batteries can build u an explosive atmosphere. I have seen an explosion in our radio batteries room that the fan shut down the enclosure the motor starter was in wasn’t secured correctly and a spark from the contacts on the starter set it off. it was in a cement block room so it didnt escape but the room had a new black paint job. remember you can make only one fatal mistake
    Grampa

    Reply
  5. Rebutting some incorrect information from the article:
    Birds. We have lots of birds around our farm depending on season (we live in a flat Mojave desert farm with a 17 year old 2002 Begey Excel 10 wind turbine that outputs up to 10kw and generates more power than we use during a year’s time spinning the meter backwards more often than forwards).
    The lattice/truss tower is approximately 80′ high.
    Have yet to ever see or find a single dead bird in the field where the Bergey tower is. In fact: I have videos of these funny little birds fighting for the coveted seats along the tail of the wind turbine almost exclusively on low wind days when the tail flutter will cause a rhythmic “squealing” sound that the birds will happily chirp along to. It is one of the most amusing sights and we spend hours watching and laughing at the spectacle of these feathered friends singing gleefully in harmony with our wind turbine which they have adopted as their own karaoke machine. I have videos of this and would love to share it: it is absolutely hilarious. On a low wind day: it is simply the single most sought after perch on the farm for the smaller birds. Have yet to see any birds on the turbine during higher wind days and the birds spend better than 90% of their time foraging between the trees, fields, and the buildings regardless of wind conditions.

    Large birds want nothing to do with the turbine.

    Owls are experts at hiding in our trees none of which are taller than 25′ because desert trees other than date palms dont get enough water to gain much height. We will hear the owls but never see them perching for we will study the trees with binoculars while listening to them hoot away and when we get too close: they fly to another tree to vanish into the foliage which is amazing and maddening as our trees are not that large, despite the dense foliage. I have yet to catch a clear photo of one perched, they always find the darkest spots where the camera cannot focus. Ever since we upgrade the outdoor lighting to add motion sensing: we seldom see or hear the owls (they may have moved nesting sites to get away from the outdoor lighting) though every week or so they leave some owl pellet gifts dropped through the leaves eventually landing under the mulberry tree or moringa tree or the big old pinyon pine to show that they visited for a midnight snack.

    Our local crows/ravens are fond of the stables, corrals, kennels and coops where they pillage and pilfer anything that is not nailed down. We have had a few ravens die in the stables presumably from getting caught or lost in the stables or flying into something. So I have lost more birds to our livestock buildings than all other factors combined; but you wont see me posting online that stables kill birds, as that might have been unique to my area or layout.

    Small flocks of gulls migrate through but seldom spend enough time to really get to know them much. They forage the trees and fields and then move on, sometimes leaving reminders of their visits on our yards, barbeque grills, light fixtures, tractor, or vehicles. (Those ornery birds seem to always find the most annoying places…..)

    We get large flocks of geese migrating overhead but they never stop as our water is underground and we keep our fish tanks covered and in greenhouses to minimize evaporation and control temperature. Outdoor water vanishes extremely quickly in the Mojave either falling into ground water seep or rapid evaporation from the hot dry wind. We have lakes that fill briefly in the winter and seep/evaporate rapidly and become dry long before the summer.

    Point is that I have yet to see a large bird go anywhere near the 80′ turbine while the faster, nimble little birds play amongst it and sing along with it except when it is windy when they avoid it.

    So for the birds in our area: the turbine seems quite safe. The only birds that go near that seem agile enough to avoid it. Your area and your bird situations will likely vary but I have yet to see a single bird loss ever due to our 17 year old turbine. In fact: we see more birds in the trees and find more molten feathers under the trees than anywhere else.
    With a record like that: I am quick to dispute claims that these kill birds, that has to be a geographical and or species specific event.
    In fact: it is so quiet out here (the turbine, HVAC, and the ice maker are the only mechanical sounds) that if anything ever impacted the wind turbine: we would very likely hear it (as long as the tractor, vacuum, power tool, and/or air compressor wasn’t running).

    Another potential point of contention is whether grid tie makes sense. In California: we get SGIP incentives to grid-tie and without the wind generator we would spend over $300 a month on energy (the well pump plus the entire home is electric: we do not have (or want) gas nor propane in the home.

    So our inverter died this year. It would be $12k to replace the inverter only; but we ordered a new turbine and new inverter which will cost $41k but between SGIP and federal tax credit: will cost us $18k if we keep the old unit and about $12k if we sell it. (We will keep it and mount/install it on the barn and get the inverter fixed). With the 17 year old turbine and inverter: our electric bill was never higher than $1100 for the year and that was during hot years with little wind. So it costs half as much for us to do wind as it would to pay for electricity. But we are in a wind-optimal location (flat open desert with average wind speed of 17mph annually). What is going to help more is when we finally add solar. We have been wanting to do that for years as we are also in prime solar area and sun tends to happen in day while wind peak hours begin in the afternoon and die down in middle of night. It is beneficial to have both, and not one or the other as neither really does everything. But factor in equipment cost and replacement. Average turbine lifespan is supposedly 30 years. So far my experience matches that, but the inverter lasted 17 years, and it is repairable, but obsolete by today’s standards: the newer ones are more efficient and with far superior monitoring and optimization than the old 2002 Gridtek was. (Hence why the government and utility incentives to upgrade). If your area has incentives: consider that. If not: it could be difficult to justify the investment as it might not save you anything to generate your own power vs paying a utility (and could even cost more). What works here is different from what works there. (The original article mentions this too, but it bears repeating from the different perspective of an optimal location where it is still only certain to be justified with the incentives). In SGIP: we only get incentives grid tied. However once the incentives are received: there is nothing to prevent someone from interconnecting a switch to go offgrid. In fact: we have plans to use a Crestron system to automate the grid vs battery to use the grid only when we have surplus or deficit in generation and/or storage. High winds tend to take the grid down but that is when we least need the grid. But in a grid tie system (without an interconnect) we have to shut down when the grid goes down. This is why automation is so imperative.

    Reply
  6. One more item about professional installation.
    Failure to correctly connect solar, wind or electricity can result in fire or electrocution (either of which can cause loss of property, life or limb).
    Before dismissing professionals as an option carefully consider skill level.
    I worked in electronics most of my career and I am still hiring a professional to do my upgrades.
    Note: the Walmart vs Tesla lawsuit?
    Walmart is suing Tesla whose Solar City installations failed to meet standards and caused 7 fires in 200 installations using Panasonic OEM panels that are known to be reliable and safe when properly installed.
    If you are handy with circuitry: why not DIY?
    But if you are unsure: why not hire a licensed professional?

    Not trying to find fault with Samantha’s article. Actually I agreed with most of it, but wanted to provide some contrarian views because we have had different experiences in 3 areas and it seemed worth exploring those differences to more fully cover the topic from a different geography and result from a windy flat open desert where wind and solar are both actually optimal.

    Reply

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