A closeup on a small wind turbine with a sunset in the background

We have all experienced that familiar sight drive while through the countryside—rolling meadows and spinning white three-pronged pinwheel columns dotting the landscape. Slowly emerging, these small wind turbines are the new age of renewable, organic energy.

The first wave of Covid-19 was enough to convince us of the importance of health, budgets, and environmental responsibility. Not just another pipe dream, generating your own electricity could be the key to cutting your bill in half.

What Is a Small Wind Turbine?

Small wind turbines, also called “micro wind turbines” or “small wind generators,” are built to micro-generate electricity in homes and commercial buildings. Their range capacity is 20 watts-100 kW.

Are Small Wind Turbines Worth it?

After an initial investment, wind-generated electricity is virtually free. A small wind turbine can cut expenses by half. Besides savings, other pros are renewable energy, space management, eco-friendliness, and sustainability. Drawbacks include inconsistent power, wildlife risk, noise, and zoning restrictions.

Small wind turbines are a reliable option, whether in the suburbs, living off the grid, or just trying to save costs. They offer sustainable energy that significantly minimizes your carbon footprint. 

Since we are going all Nancy Drew on small wind turbines, let’s New York minute this topic with the pros and cons.

The Pros of Small Wind Turbines

A girl smiling holding a small wind turbine

Free Source of Organic Energy

What is free on earth? That’s right, bountiful resources. The wind is free. If you live in a windy area, its potential is just waiting to be harnessed. 

Much like a well that never runs dry, the wind is a renewable resource that never drains. Therefore, it is a forever asset. And the more it continues adoption by the masses, the more affordable it will become. 

Eco-friendly Alternative

Energy from small wind turbines will not contaminate air quality, whereas power unit plants depend on fuels to produce energy. The production of this energy pollutes the earth with toxic gases, creating significant health risks. 

Small wind turbines do not emit pollutants that create acid rain, fumes, smog, etc. Consequently, wind power reduces our dependence on toxic fuels and contributes to good health and ecological benefits.

Additionally, wind energy is known to preserve water reservoirs. Nuclear power needs to use approximately 600 times more water than wind, while coal uses around 500 times more to generate the same volume of electricity. So, as you can see, wind energy conserves water. 

Saves Money

Studies have shown that wind energy is the least expensive electricity source available today. Hence if you invest, you will recover the expense of the initial investment over a short period. 

All your home needs to run on small wind turbines is less than 5meters/second of annual wind speed. If the installation is well-located, small wind turbines can recoup the investment within 15 years. 

Although small wind turbines may require some overhead to install, expenses are comparatively low once they are up and running. The wind is complimentary, while the turbine itself should not need much maintenance.

Space Management

It is suggested that wind turbines need not be placed close together. The fact is wind turbines don’t need that much area, and you can put your land to good use. 

When you install the turbine, chances are there is ample space in between. Use this space smartly. Wind farms are widespread in the country. Each turbine can generate plenty of energy. 

Generally speaking, the higher the elevation of the turbine, the better, because the height of the tower determines the volume of power the turbine will produce. 

The most suitable places for wind turbines are along the coast, on hills, open fields, and between mountain ravines. These are the places where the breeze is generally strong. 

A small wind turbine installed in a field with a pond in the background

Wherever you are, research before you decide on the tower height; then, utilize your location. Perfect sites are often located in far-flung places. At times, conceiving a few transmission lines could significantly reduce the expenses of developing wind energy.

Sustainability

We all know that wind supply is ample and non-perishable. In the last decade or so, the potential for wind power has increased by 15% annually. 

There are many factors to wind generation, such as the atmospheric heat from the sun, rotation of the earth, etc. Energy will continue to be generated sustainably as long as the sun shines and the wind blows. 

A small wind turbine with a solar panel attached

Potential for Homeowners

More and more homeowners are opting for wind energy. Users find it empowering to generate their own electricity with wind energy as others have done with solar panels.

We already know that wind is an autonomous energy supply and is convenient for powering residences. Furthermore, users with wind turbines at home also obtain access to net metering. It is this net metering that gives credit to monthly electricity bills in case extra power is produced.

If you are a homeowner producing wind energy, you get compensated for any excess power generated. The excess also helps during blackouts and while electricity prices fluctuate.

Pumps Water, Powers Transportation

Many ancient civilizations have incorporated wind energy. For example, the Egyptians propelled boats using wind energy along the Nile River in 5,000 BC. Near 200 BC, China used wind-powered water pumps. Likewise, Persia and the Middle East used windmills made from woven reed blades for grinding grain. 

We are still practicing similar methods. Wind energy is now ready to power electric vehicles, and we use wind energy to pump water from the underground. It is considered a low-cost option in certain parts of the world. 

The Cons of Small Wind Turbine 

Inconsistency

We understand that wind is not the most predictable of resources. On average, industry estimates have revealed that turbines usually function at around 30-40% capacity. 

If the climate does not support the user, you can experience a power outage. Severe storms or strong winds can wreak havoc on your wind turbine, and suddenly you are back to square one and must turn to the electric company.

Wild Life Hazard

The prongs and edges of the turbine can play hara-kiri on wildlife. Often it endangers birds or other winged wildlife that fly too close to rotating blades. However, these difficulties are slowly being fixed or decreased with new technology or placing turbines in more suitable areas. 

Scientific research is advancing to provide solutions that reduce this threat to wildlife. However, as with most energy sources, modern progress can change the environment and the seasonal habits of some species. More studies on these threats are needed.

Noise Pollution

Because of the small size and space used, frequently, small wind turbines have a comparatively lesser impact on the environment when compared to large turbines or traditional power plants. 

Still, there is cause for concern regarding the noise made by the blades. Wind turbines are known to raise noise as high as 50 to 60 decibels. 

Constraints

Locational limitations

There are particular areas where the wind speed often picks up. These hot spots are usually in inaccessible regions, not your backyard. 

People ask whether they can install small wind turbines on their rooftop. The answer is yes, technically. However, consider the ramifications.

Some users mounted these ecological wonders on their rooftops. But wind turbines vibrate, creating vibrations through the buildings on which they are installed. As a result, it can lead to noisiness and structural vulnerability. 

Small wind turbines atop a roof

Additionally, if your rooftop is in an area of heightened wind activity, it can reduce the shelf life of your device and decrease energy output. Extra expenses related to resolving these issues defeat the purpose. Therefore, turbines installed atop ground-based towers are more cost-effective.

The average tower height of a small wind turbine is advised to be 65 feet. Yet, this allows the neighboring buildings or trees to interrupt the even course of the wind. 

Unstable wind flow is the curse of a small wind turbine because it creates turbulence, further straining the machine parts and perplexing the air sensors.

Thus, inconsistent airflow means that two sites with equal average wind rates can produce varying energy levels year-round.

A small wind turbine is not a regular device you can install anywhere and get the same rate of energy or quality. Instead, each turbine will have its unique production value depending on the site and external factors. Based on this, an opinion from a professional is the best solution.

six small wind turbines surrounding a house

Restricting Regulations 

Besides the problems of adjusting to the noisy sound decibels, installation can be tricky. Setting up a small wind turbine gets even more complicated with provincial statutes that may prevent the structure itself.

A few regions have restricted regulations against the use of turbines in residential areas. So, talk to your local building regulatory authorities or advisory boards (or HOA) to obtain the information required for eligibility. It is always better to be safe than sorry. You should review this plan before you make a decision. 

Minimal Scalability

Imagine you may be looking to enhance your setup by a couple of kilowatts (kW). You would think it would be a practical and monetary walk in the park. 

However, adding energy to a small wind installation involves attaching another turbine, not to mention you need to ensure they are spaced out in such a way that they don’t hamper each other.

Try to avoid interference by thoroughly investigating requirements and opportunities, but always double-check with the local specialists before you go off to invest.

Investment Trade-off

Setting up the infrastructure takes extra investment. For example, small wind turbines for homes, small businesses, or farms typically cost $3000 to $8000 per kilowatt capacity. In comparison, larger home units need approximately around a 10-kilowatt turbine, in which the average installation expense could cost $50,000 to $80,000.

Environmental Impact

It requires plenty of open space to set up wind turbines—falling trees contradict the ecological impact we aim to minimize. Therefore, suitable sites may be difficult to access or utilize.

The Legacy of Wind Energy Continues

Wind energy has powered the sail of boats, cargo ships, pumped water and is used in sports too.

It has been nearly 200 years since the original coal-fueled steamships crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Reverting us to those times is a Swedish firm that designed an Aquarian age wind-energy masterpiece called the Oceanbird. This ship promises the capacity to carry 7,000 cars. 

There you have it. We are turning to greener lifestyles, which is a “breath of fresh air.” The small wind turbine is green, renewable, and affordable and is here to stay!

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