Wind Turbine Facts – getting started

Whilst the use of wind power has provided man with energy and power in some form or other throughout the ages, to day there are three main categories of wind machine in use to serve our needs.

your own wind turbine

your own wind turbine

  • Windmill : used for milling grain (often used as a general wind term)
  • Wind Pump: for water pumping – played big role in land development
  • Wind turbine: correct term for wind machines producing electricity

Wind turbines arrived in the wake of the introduction of electricity. To day they represent the latest and most exciting use of wind power – and as small–scale wind systems for home use developed, interest in homemade wind turbine potential went hand in hand with it.

In pursuit of this interest, the enthusiast soon learned that there was more involved than simply erecting a wind turbine. As with solar, important site considerations have to be considered; the most important being the site’s exposure to the wind. If your site is among trees and/or surrounded by steep hills, it is unlikely to be useful for wind power. A flat or elevated open area is best with trees and other obstacles being well away from the turbine.

As with most technologies for the home what one is prepared to invest will decide how successful the project is likely to be. Towers are a major consideration. As a rule of thumb the taller the better, but obviously a happy compromise should be met. For a small turbine an absolute minimum tower height of 20 feet should be observed. For homemade wind turbine projects, tubular steel pipe or scaffold is a good choice. At a height over 20 feet the tower should definitely be stayed. I would never consider a roof mounting, but a tower fixed to the side of a barn with sound U bolts is not a bad idea. Noise can be a factor, so proximity to the home should be considered.

Local authorities are often on ‘unsure ground’ on the subject of domestic wind turbines. You are likely to get mixed views from different officials and in the writers experience your will rarely get the same answers from the different local authority offices you call on. If objections are raised they are most likely to relate to visual and noise considerations, so if the turbine is sited too close to a neighbour, bear in mind the possibility of a complaint to the local authority from that quarter.

Being exposed to, and harnessing the power of the wind, installation sturdiness needs to be given serious consideration. Strong gales must be allowed for. The writer has seen DIY wind turbines disintegrate – and in one case, an entire turbine head catapulted 200 feet from a freestanding tower. So, think sturdy and strong for your homemade wind turbine system. Doing it yourself is by and large just that. Professional consultants are a rare breed for the DIY type. Those that are available will almost always be working for a manufacturing outlet.

In terms of payback time domestic wind turbine installations and in particular DIY installations, offer better payback times than say, solar. BUT, take into account that with very active moving parts and towers dependent on, and subjected to the harshest of wind conditions, the maintenance cost factor will be far greater.