Question

What is a practical solution to add wind power for my home?

Asked by Steve Collins
San Diego, CA

I have heard horror stories about the noise and the strobe light effect. Has anyone had a good experience with a product that is not an eyesore and will have minimal complaints by my neighbors and HOA?

Answer

Steve,

The strobe-light effect and noise from a wind turbine horror stories should be the least of your concerns when considering the installation of a renewable energy source.

Look at these four issues when considering wind power:

Location and obstruction

What is the height and distance of all trees and buildings within a 250-degree radius around your home? This is important to know since any obstruction located in this area will create turbulence in the air current and impede the performance of a wind turbine.

To overcome this problem, it is recommended that a horizontal turbine be placed 30 feet above the highest obstruction. Many cities do not allow the installation of wind turbines in urban areas for this reason.

  • Contact the city planner or building official to verify if it is even feasible to install a properly functioning turbine.
  • Also check on the NREL website for wind speed maps. It is commonly recommended that average wind speed should be a minimum of 10 mph.

Existing building envelope

Is your existing home properly insulated? Have an energy auditor perform an audit of the existing home. This will determine both heat loss during the heating season and heat gain during the cooling season. This analysis will pinpoint areas of inefficiency and areas of required building envelope upgrades.

If your existing home is inefficient, installing a wind turbine or any renewable energy source is like placing a Band-aid on a sieve to prevent it from draining liquid.

Energy consumption

Review all energy bills for an entire year. This will give you a full understanding of how much energy is required to operate the home.

Also look at the existing systems to determine their efficiency and remaining life expectancy. When installing new equipment, look at purchasing Energy Star rated products.

  • Also look at the reduction in power consumption after any building envelope upgrades are performed.
  • Many wind turbines which are suited for residential use in urban settings only produce between 1-2 KW annually.

State, federal and utility incentives

Visit www.dsireusa.org. This is a U.S. Dept. of Energy database for incentives per state and federal government and local energy providers. The list is extensive but worth the research.

The amount of incentives can become a deciding factor when return on investment is a priority. Also look to see if your state offers tax exemptions for renewable energy.

  • In many states, renewable energy sources are viewed as real property and increase your property value, which in turn increases your property taxes.
  • In some cases this is the difference from saving money to spending money.

Aesthetics

Unlike building integrated photovoltaic panels, wind turbines are a prominent visual element on any landscape/building. Currently there are two types:

  • horizontal and
  • vertical oriented models.

For urban areas, a vertical turbine is recommended, since it is not affected by turbulent air currents like a horizontal oriented model. But they are not aesthetically pleasing by any means.

 

For more information:

Read Christine and Robert Bolles's Q&A "How can I find out whether wind power is a practical option for our location on the Oregon coast?"

Tagged In: energy audit, wind power, aesthetics

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