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Wind Power

Wind energy technology has improved over the past twenty years. Wind turbines built during the early 70's, were not as efficient and reliable as today's. If you haven't looked into wind technology in a while or never have, you might want to think about using a wind turbine as a renewable energy source. Especially for those of us who don't see much of the sun. Here are some things to consider for those who are thinking of investing in wind energy.

Is there enough wind at your site?
For most turbines, an average wind of 7 to 10 mph is required (cut-in speed) before a wind turbine will begin generating electricity and an average speed of 10 mph is required before they become economical. (This figure may vary depending upon local energy providers.) The Renewable Resource Data Center (RReDC) has produced a Wind Energy Resource Map of the United States that provides a detailed map of average wind speeds. Although the map is a useful guide, it does not have enough detail to determine if your site is acceptable or not. Differences in terrain, obstructions and seasonal variations all play a role in determining if you have a viable site. It is best that you consult with a local wind turbine dealer who can provide a site survey before making any major investments in wind power. Even if you think your site is windy, you must remember that the average wind speed is critical.

Is it economical?
As an average rule of thumb, the average wind speed should be no less than 10 mph and the electric utility rate should be at least .10/kWh. With that said, you also need to take into consideration your up front cost for the wind turbine, tower and wiring. A 3,000 watt system including the turbine and inverter runs about $10,000. The system that I found priced at $10,000 stated that it produces 3,000 watts with a 25 mph wind. You could probably expect 1,000 watts at about 16 mph. As you can see, it's quite a sizable investment and the time before recouping your investment could be at least 6 to 15 years. As stated above, it is best that you contact a local wind turbine dealer for a site evaluation.

What about surplus electricity? Does the electric company have to buy it back?
On those windy days, more than likely you will have a surplus of electricity and by law your local electric company has to buy the electricity back from you. But, depending upon what state you live in, the electric company may buy the power back at a wholesale rate, or if you're lucky, they may buy it back at the same rate they charge you. Be aware, that the electric company may also charge you for the cost of installing another power meter that runs backwards.

What about maintenance?
One thing is for certain, anything with moving parts will eventually wear out. That's not to say that today's wind turbines are not reliable - they are for the most part. But do be aware that sooner or later, you will have to do maintenance or have someone do maintenance on a wind turbine. Most wind turbines on the market today have a 2 to 3 year warranty and are designed for up to 20 years of life.

What other kinds of wind power are there?
Besides electricity, wind can be used to pump water. Since the days of the Dutch windmill, man has been using windmills to pump water and grind flour. Most windmills went the way of the dinosaur once electricity was brought to rural communities, but you can still buy new or used windmills today. Windmills can pump water hundreds of feet deep depending upon the size of the windmill and the diameter of the well hole. If you are mechanically inclined, you may want to ask a local farmer about buying his old, broken down windmill.

Why do people invest in wind energy?
There are a number of reasons why people invest in wind energy. For those who do not live on the grid and live in a not too sunny environment, it may be there only choice besides using a noisy, pollution spewing generator. For others, it may be that they want to live self sufficiently or to help the environment. Some are looking for vindication against their local utility companies. Whatever the reasons, wind energy is a renewable energy source that doesn't pollute our environment and is a viable source of energy.