There’s no question that a wind turbine can be installed on your property without the help of professionals. Before deciding to do this project yourself, there are a few things to consider.
What are the mechanical and electrical requirements, and do I have the skills to meet them?
Who do I know with appropriate skills to help me through the process?
What obstacles will this project present me in terms of zoning laws, safety codes, and neighbor concerns?
Will a DIY turbine installation save me money in the end?
Depending on your answers to the questions above, you can choose your level of DIY, which varies in complexity based on your skill set. You can use a home wind energy kit, which will include directions and all necessary parts concrete-everything. You can assemble the components yourself based on the contents of a wind energy kit. Or, you can build the system from the ground up, using how-to guides and creativity.
Home Wind Energy Kits
Kits are a low cost wind power option, and can be fairly simple to install. The kits include all parts, and require very little wiring or specialized labor. Still, DIY kits have low energy generating potential. The kilowatts generated from the end product may not be enough to make a difference on your electric bills.
Home Depot sells a wind energy kit called the Sunforce 900-Watt Wind Generator Kit, at a cost of $2,497.97. The kit includes a three blade wind turbine made of carbon fiber composite and a 100-Watt inverter. The 30-foot tower is sold separately for $550, or the turbine can be installed on a pole of the customer’s choice.
The Sunforce kit, installed at 30 feet, will most likely experience obstruction from trees and buildings, reducing the amount of power it can generate. Professionally installed turbines sit on towers of 80 feet or more in order to catch the strongest winds.
A rating of 900-Watts means that, under ideal conditions, the turbine will produce 900 watts of energy/year. Conditions considered ideal are winds of 10 mph or more which aren’t obstructed by trees or other factors. The energy generated is sent to a 12V battery at the house, and then through the inverter into the electrical outlets.
While the Sunforce kit is low cost and has few moving parts, making assembly easy, it can generate only about 1/12th of the energy used by the average household each year. The homeowner will need to determine if this amount of energy production is worth the cost of the system.
Buy Wind Energy System Components
For those with some electrical and construction skills, building a custom turbine is possible. There are components of all kinds online, enabling the more experienced do it yourselfer to choose the size and capacity of their wind power system. Those comfortable with reverse engineering should have the skills to put together their own system.
Major components of a wind energy system include the propeller and tail, the tower, and the inverter. The turbine will send power to batteries or directly to the home’s electrical system. If you choose to do your own wiring, you’ll also be negotiating an interconnection agreement with your utility to determine the kind of metering you’ll need for the wind power. You’ll also be researching all laws, regulations, and homeowners associations rules that pertain to a turbine and tower.
Turbines operate under two main rules: speed and power. Speed is gained by using fewer blades on the propeller and by using smaller blades. Power is gained by lengthening the diameter of the propellers. An additional consideration is the wind shadow, which occurs when the blades of the propeller pass the tower. At that point, the sudden pressure change leads to vibration which can affect output.
A 3-blade turbine with a 2 meter propeller blade is, at this time, the most efficient overall model. Such a set-up can supply over 500 watts of power under ideal conditions. Of course, if wind speed doesn’t reach at least 10 mph, power generation will be lower.
Starting from Scratch
There’s no need to start down the path of DIY turbine construction alone. An online community of people exists to offer expertise and personal experience on the subject of home renewable energy creation. For those who choose to build their own turbine or assemble a system from parts, this community can be very beneficial.
The experience offered by the online DIY community generally extends beyond a recount of their successes and failures. Many of the people involved want to spread wind energy technology and DIY expertise around the world. Any homeowner considering building a wind turbine can use the forums from the websites to gain valuable information before construction.
These websites will tell you that it’s possible to build a home wind power system, and that’s true. For people who want to achieve energy savings but don’t have the funds for the high upfront costs of a commercially-made system, building a turbine may be the best solution. Areas in which you’ll need to do research include:
Learning turbine design and function
Conducting a wind assessment on the site of your turbine
Negotiating an interconnection agreement with your utility company
Complying with zoning and electrical codes, safety regulations, noise ordinances, and HOA rules
Expecting to perform repairs and maintenance on your turbine
Constructing your own wind power system is not for the beginning do it yourselfer. However, for those who take pride in building with their own two hands, and who have basic electrical skills, there’s no reason not to build a wind turbine for your property.