A wind turbine can be an excellent addition to your home. It can help you get a cheap supply of electricity for years to come. It can be especially beneficial for people living on farms or off-grid where conventional power supply is unavailable or expensive. When deciding to install a home wind power system at our houses, people often wonder about residential wind power’s advantages and disadvantages to determine if it is the right fit for them.
Here we have collected a list of pros and cons backed by reliable research and data to help you decide.
How do wind turbines work
Before we dive into various aspects of home wind power, we need to have a basic understanding of wind power. So as we all know that atmospheric forces and the sun causes winds to move. These winds contain a lot of energy, and someone thought it would be a good idea to put winds to work and make our lives easier. Wind turbines are a way to harness a fraction of that energy. It has three main elements; blades, pole, and generator. These blades are rotated by wind producing mechanical energy. This energy is then transferred to the generators that convert this energy into electricity. Simple right!
Great, now let’s get back to our original topic.
Pros of Residential Wind Power
1. Clean source of energy
No surprises here! Unlike fossil fuels, wind power does not produce dusk, smoke, pollutants, and other dangerous stuff. You will make the planet a little happier when you switch to wind energy. The power sector alone is responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions. It’s hard to save the world if all of us kept using fossil fuels. Wind turbines do not cause any emissions while in operation. Running a wind turbine for just 3 to 6 months will offset all the emissions required in its construction, transportation, etc.
A renewable source of energy is the one that is replenished by nature regularly. There is virtually an unlimited supply of wind energy out there. The wind is produced by heating by the sun and rotation of the earth. Unlike coal and oil, we will never run out of wind. Deriving energy from the wind has the least damaging effect on the environment than other energy sources.
Many countries, including the US, provide multiple incentives to make wind energy financially attractive for residential and business uses. Depending on your location and when you opted for wind power, you can get as much as 30% tax credit of expenditures.
The modified accelerated cost recovery system can help you deprecate a lot of project capital cost in just 5 years.
There are specific programs for rural areas as well. US department of agriculture provides farmers and ranchers loan guarantees for renewable energy projects.
These and many other programs are making wind energy more and more accessible.
4. Low maintenance
Wind turbines typically consist of only 2-4 moving parts. They are made to endure harsh conditions and will work fine for decades to come. These turbines are primarily maintenance-free. Maybe a little bit of lubrication once a while or a checkup after a few months is all that is required, but other than that, these machines don’t ask much from you.
The cost of owning a residential wind power system has been steadily declining. There is an 80% decline in prices since the 1980s. The latest advances and the increasing popularity are helping in lowering down the costs even further. Modern turbines can pay for themselves in around 15 years, and if you count the incentives we mentioned above, the turbine can be free to run in as little as 10 years. Remember that these systems are designed to last around 30 years, while some even claim to work for 50 years!
6. Additional income
Once you have your initial investment back, your turbine can make money for you. You can sell the surplus energy back to the power grid. There is a system in place for that. It is called net metering, where your utility company compensates you for the excess power you generate. In most states, power companies are legally required to buy surplus electricity from you. You can sell the unused energy during windy days and get electricity when the wind speed is low. This arrangement can give for free access to uninterrupted power. The amount paid by the utility company depends on the state and the time of the year. You can read more about it here.
You can also get paid for installing a wind power system on your land. While the cost differs from place to place, you can expect around $3000-$4000 per megawatt of installed power.
Also, the amount you save on electric bills is money in your pocket. That could easily mean an additional $2000-$3000 per year.
7. Evolving technology
Best researchers are currently working on wind power systems to make them more efficient, cost-effective, and environment friendly. The largest turbine in the world created by Siemens Gamesa can produce 14Mw of power that can fulfill the needs of 1800 homes for a year!. I know that won’t do much for your quest to buy a residential wind power system, but im a nerdy engineer, and since I learned about this turbine, I was trying to insert it somewhere.
The currently made turbines can last much longer and will function without much assistance from your end.
The latest turbines don’t look like clunky old machines; instead, they look like modern and sophisticated pieces of hardware. These new machines are available in many sizes and shapes (there are portable models as well), and you can easily find one suited for your needs.
8. Multipurpose use in farms
A wind turbine itself doesn’t require a lot of space. It would be best if you placed it somewhere where it can be away from obstructions. Farmers can continue working on a farm where a wind turbine is installed. A great way is to combine grazing lands with a wind turbine. Many farmers even yield crops from the ground where they have installed wind power systems.
Some even supplement their income by renting out their lands. If you give obstacle-free airspace to the blades of the turbine, you can pretty much do anything you like on the ground!
9. A great addition to other power systems
While a wind power system can free you from the obligations of electricity bills, it needs constant winds. Many places are fortunate enough to receive good winds, but not all areas fall in this category. That doesn’t mean that you can’t reap the benefits of this incredible technology; you can still supplement it with other power sources like solar, micro-hydro, or regular grid power.
In combination with other power systems, wind power can be a more reliable and practical option for most people.
10. Generating New Employment opportunities
As wind energy becomes more accessible, newer employment opportunities are opening up for people. The wind industry is generating jobs in manufacturing, installing, transportation, and consulting; a 2017 report by the International renewable energy agency demonstrated that over 10 million people are employed in this sector, which is growing since then.
70% of these jobs are generated in China, Germany, the US, and India
Cons of Residential Wind Power
1. High initial cost
Wind turbines are large and sturdy pieces of equipment designed to last a long time while facing harsh environments, so it’s evident that these are not cheap to manufacture. The installation cost of wind turbines is higher compared to other sources. Generally, you can expect to shell out around $5000 per kWh of power. A 10 Kwh wind power system, can cost over $50,000. You might also need to set up additional power lines if there is a considerable distance between your home and wind turbine.
But once these are installed, you rarely need to spend anything on them for years.
One of the biggest concerns that most people have about wind turbines is their noise. And yes, they are indeed noisy but not as much as you think.
A turbine which is places about 300 meters away will have a sound level of 43 decibels. That’s less than an air conditioner which is 50 decibels, and slightly more than a refrigerator which produces 40 decibels.
Even at closer ranges with high wind speeds, the sounds barely exceed 60 decibels. This may Bother a tiny segment of people, but for most people, it will be okay.
3. Intermittent Power
Well, wind turbines need wind to work! When the wind speed is too low, you may not get the power you need. The wind turbines need a minimum wind speed called cut-in speed, which is around 6 to 9 miles per hour. Below this speed, the turbines don’t work. Too high wind speeds are also an issue; when the wind is blowing at 55mph, the turbine must stop working to avoid damage. The sweet spot is 33mph.
Not all places are fortunate enough to receive optimum wind all year round. In such sites, wind power may not be a feasible option.
4. Negatively affects certain species.
Birds and bats can die due to wind turbine collisions. Certain species of birds like raptors and hoary bats are especially vulnerable. However, the numbers are much less than those killed by other human-made things like buildings, fossil fuels, and pet cats.
Though the wind turbine industry is working hard to prevent these issues and many simple hacks like painting one blade black and installing bat deterrent systems can significantly reduce the mortality rate.
You can read more about it here.
5. Prone to damage
Even though wind turbines are very tough and have systems in place to avoid storm damage, but sometimes storms and tornadoes can be too strong and might cause some damage to the turbine.
Another threat to a turbine is a lightning strike. Due to their height, turbines are easy victims of lightning. However, there are well-designed lightning protection systems that can avoid lightning damages and keep your turbine safe. Some turbines even come with these systems preinstalled.
6. Not a pretty view
So this one is pretty subjective. Even though turbines have come a long way from looking like cluttered and ugly machines, many people still despise the view of a turbine. Your neighbors may not share your love for the turbines. In fact, certain places have imposed height restrictions and other rules on residential turbine systems.
Coastal areas are an excellent location to install wind turbines. However, certain places fought tooth and nail to avoid turbines on their coastlines. This is especially prevalent in tourism-supported economies.
7. It May not be the best use of your land.
When it comes to making money from your land, wind power may not be the most profitable option. In the areas where the real estate value is high, more money can be made by using the place for housing projects. The view of a spinning blade can offset some potential buyers as well ( Though someone like me will be happy to pay more for a property with its own power system installed)
8. Administrative bottlenecks
You have to go through several administrative bottlenecks before installing a domestic wind turbine system in certain places.
Some homeowners associations do not encourage wind turbines in their backyards. Therefore you should always double-check with them before proceeding further.
Also, check with your local power company if they have systems in place to purchase surplus power from you and how much they will pay you.
Some areas are home to some endangered species, and a wind turbine can put those species at risk. These areas generally won’t allow you to install a wind turbine on your property.
Government incentives are an essential factor in making turbines economically feasible. However, you may or may not be eligible based on where you live and other factors. Please check with the designated authorities before proceeding.
9. Shadow Flicker
When the blades of a turbine rotate, they cast a shadow. In worst cases, your neighbors have to suffer 100 minutes of light alteration a year, and in best cases, it’s 20 minutes. Even though it’s not a lot, but it can upset some people.
To avoid this, engineers generally place turbines in areas where they cause minimum shadow flicker damage.
10. Not for all locations
If you have read all the above points, you must be well aware by now that wind turbines are not suitable for all locations. In some places, the wind speed may not be fast enough, while administrative issues might discourage you in other sites. You might be living in an area where it makes more sense to use your land in some other way.
These advantages and disadvantages can help you decide if wind power is right for you. We have gathered all the data mentioned here from highly trustworthy sources. If you are willing to invest financially and your area favors it, having a residential wind power system can be highly rewarding.
However, if you don’t feel it’s the right fit for you, there are many alternatives you can try, like solar energy and micro hydropower.