Wind turbines are picking up speed with acreage owners. But you really need the right location and wind velocity to make them a worthy investment. Dan McGuire with the National Renewable Energy Lab says a turbine owner should live on at least one acre of land with an average wind speed of 10 miles-per-hour.
"And if you’re in a place where there’s a good enough wind resource, and your electric rates per kilowatt are relatively high, there could be a payback for a wind turbine if you can generate enough of your own power," McGuire says. "It’s on your side of the meter and if you’re in a state that has net metering, you could put the excess out onto the grid and get paid for it."
A wind turbine typically lowers your electricity bill by more than half. It’s not uncommon to have monthly utility bills of less than $15 for nine months of the year. In northern parts of the U.S. where less air conditioning is used, the bills can be that low year-round. The amount of money a wind turbine saves you in the long run depends on factors like how much electricity you use, the average wind speed at your site, and the cost of the turbine itself, which is about the same as a new car. "You might be looking at $30,000 or something in that neighborhood," says McGuire. "It’s not a cheap matter, you need to do your homework on it an many states have an energy office and a website you can go to and even plug in your electric rate and how many kilowatts you use in a year, and has a formula calculator on there and it’ll tell ya what your payback period is."
A wind system will usually pay for itself through utility savings within 6-15 years.But before you invest in a turbine, check out any local ordinances that might alter your plans. Some areas have limits on structure heights, for example. The neighbors might protest, too, because they’ll worry about the noise it could make. You can assure them that sound won’t be an issue. A non-commercial wind turbine is no louder than a refrigerator.
Here are some additional resources on wind energy:
Wind energy FAQ: The American Wind Energy Association answers questions about turbine installation and offers a list of manufacturers. Also review the Association's important information about turbines and wildlife.
Radio interview source: Dan McGuire, spokesman, National Renewable Energy Lab
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