How long does it take a wind turbine to pay for itself?

Adding a residential wind power system to your home is a big decision. You need to understand all aspects of it in great detail to determine if it is right for you. A home wind turbine system can be an excellent accessory for your home. It could eliminate electricity bills from your expenses if you assessed your conditions and finances correctly. So let’s answer the biggest question that you are struggling with

How long does it take a wind turbine to pay for itself? Generally, it takes 15 to 20 years for a wind turbine to pay for itself. But this time can increase or decrease based on your power requirements, local wind speed, government incentives, etc.

There are instances when people could get back their investment much sooner, and then there are others who were not so lucky. The difference lies in proper and accurate assessment to predict future power and financial outcomes with reasonable certainty. Let’s understand these factors.

How we calculated this result

We have put a lot of time and effort into coming up with the figure of 15 to 20 years. We have gone through scores of research papers and put our mechanical engineering degrees to good use! 

We have made several assumptions and tried our best to cover the vast majority of people in them.

Here is what we assumed

  • You are buying the system upfront with no loans – Adding the loans might make this project uneconomical for most people.
  • We have considered a 10kW system – A turbine of 10kW power rating is best to fulfill all of your power needs and even have some spare to sell back to the power grid. Plus this system gives excellent output for your spending.
  • The average cost of electricity we have taken is 0.13$ per kWh – this is the data provided by the US energy information administration. We have also included the Nominal Electricity Escalation Rate of 2% per year.
  • The cost of the turbine system is taken as $64,000 – We have surveyed multiple manufactures and found that an excellent 10kW turbine is around $64.000. However, some models out there around $50,000, but we tried to give you a practical number and not an ambitious one.
  • Hub Height Average Wind Speed of 7.84 m/s or 17 mph – These numbers are relatively realistic in terms of wind speed and will apply to most people. Please note that this speed is at the hub height. 
  • The annual power output of 27350 kWh – Based on the above-mentioned environmental conditions, this is the amount of power that you will get in a year. With this much power, you can expect to produce electricity worth $3500 per year with 2% annual increments.
  • Our calculations put it to 16 years – Based on our calculations, it will take around 16 years for the turbine to pay for itself. However, we have provided a broader range to account for differences in individual needs and environmental conditions.
  • We have added $140 as annual maintenance fees – Through turbines, we don’t require much work once installed, but we have added some amount if it needs some repairs.

Who is the perfect candidate for a wind turbine

The first step in owning a home wind turbine system is determining if you are the right person for it. Some brands often oversell it by highlighting only positive aspects of it. But to make an educated decision, you need to know both pros and cons of a residential wind turbine system. The truth is that it is not suitable for everyone, and some people are better off going for other clean energy options like solar power. 

The residential wind turbine is suitable for you if

  • Your monthly electricity bill is over $150 – To make wind power economically viable, you should have a sufficient power requirement. The slightly bigger turbines give you a better bang for your buck.
  • You own 1 acre of land – This is not necessary. Still, it’s better to have at least one acre of land on your residential or commercial property to give the turbine sufficient room to function and create some space between the turbine and your neighbours!
  • Your local authorities allow it – Some local areas don’t allow you to put a wind turbine on your property. This may be due to several reasons like ecological issues, noise issues ( Yes, the wind turbines produce noise! If you can create some distance between your home and turbine, you will be fine)
  • You know how much power you need – Understanding your power requirements is essential before opting for alternate power systems. Don’t make the mistake of simply analyzing the current electricity bill and only checking the fees. Go through your old bills and see how many units of power you consume on an average in a YEAR. Our power requirements also change in different seasons.
  • You live at a place with reliable wind flow – Well, wind turbines cannot work without wind! The place you live should have good wind year round. If the wind is intermittent, you won’t get reliable power from your turbine.
  • You are okay with long-term investments – A suitable 10kW wind turbine can cost you upwards of $50,000. It will be a few years before you will reap the full benefits of your initial investment. Be prepared for long-term investments when you are opting for a wind turbine.
  • You are eligible for government incentives – Government promotes the use of clean energy and offers several incentives to encourage people to opt for it. These incentives can make owning a wind turbine more lucrative. You can read more about it here.

What is the average life of a wind turbine?

Owning a wind turbine is a long-term commitment. A common question that most prospective wind turbine owners have is How long do wind turbines last? Most turbines can last around 25 years with very little maintenance. A few companies even claim that their turbines can last upto 50 years!

Wind turbines are pretty durable and can endure a good deal of environmental torture. They don’t even require much input from your end. 

How much energy will you get in a year?

Another big question that potential wind turbine owners have is how much output a wind turbine gives you? Well, this one is a little complicated to answer.

The first thing to know is the power rating of the wind turbine that you are getting. Residential turbines are usually between 0.5kW to 15kW. However, some large establishments may even go for 100kW ones. But that’s way too big for a household. A 10kW turbine is excellent for most people. 

The next thing is to determine how much electricity will it actually produce? If a turbine is rated 10kW, it doesnt mean that it will continuously give that much output. The actual output depends on wind speed. A turbine will not start working unless there is a minimum wind speed called the cut-in speed ( usually 6 to 9 mph or 3 to 4 m/s). The faster the winds, the more power the turbine will produce. If its too fast, though, the turbine will automatically stop to prevent damage (Normally 55mph or 25 m/s)

The best results are achieved around 33mph or 15m/s. If you are fortunate to live in an area where the average annual wind speed is around ideal, you will have a very high power output.

However, if we consider average wind speed of 7.8m/s or 17mph (which is a practical number), you can expect Average Annual Power Output of 27,300 (kWh) with a 10 kW turbine

Additional expenses that you need to consider

The good thing about using an alternate energy system is that you don’t need to spend a lot on their maintenance once they are installed. They pretty much run by themselves. Though there are some expensed that may not be covered in your turbine system, like batteries. Having a reliable storage system can help you offset fluctuations in wind speed. A set of 4 deep cycle storage batteries with a capacity of 420 watts each cost around $250

Conclusion

We have made a reasonably broad estimate, and in most cases, you will be able to get back your investment much sooner. You can remove several years from this estimate if you can get a cheaper residential wind power system and reasonable government assistance. Some people can reduce this number to even 10 years! 

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