DIY Wind Power: Should you “Harness the Wind” in your Back Yard?

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Wind seems to be great option for power production on a large scale. Wind generation accounts for 7% of the power generated in the United States. For comparison, solar only accounts for 1.7% of the power generated. Wind seems to be very efficient, but is it a good option for your home energy setup? If you’ve ever driven through Kansas, you’ve likely seen hundreds of giant windmills generating power. If you drive through there at night you’ll just see a bunch of blinking red lights and you might think it is UFOs. In any case, a lot of people ask us about wind power instead of solar power and we’re going to discuss some of the pros and cons and whether you should build a home wind energy system.

DIY Solar Power vs. DIY Wind Power

Making a home solar generator is almost always a better option for most people. This is due to the fact that the cost for setting up solar has consistently been lower than wind and continues to go down. It’s also easier to find a place on your property or roof that gets enough daily sun hours than to find a place with enough daily wind. With that being said though, let’s talk about the ideal amount of wind for setting up a small wind tower. We’ll base this off of the spec sheets provided by Primus Wind. You can find their products here.

Ideal Amount of Wind

As you can see with this chart, the amount of power output is dependent upon the speed of the wind. For the “Air 40” model, your optimal wind speed is a constant 25 MPH wind current (That’s a lot of wind). Most residential homes don’t have anything close to that, but some people live in areas that have great steady wind. However, even with the optimal amount of wind, you can only expect to produce around 100-200 watts of power. This wind generator will run you close to $1000. That’s including the necessary equipment like a tower and charge controller setup. How does it compare to a solar panel setup though?

Courtesy of Primus Wind

The average daily kWh of a solar panel is 1.24 kWh, the average daily kWh of a small wind turbine with 7.2mph winds 1.2 kWh. If you’d like to see the average wind speed across the USA check out this chart. As you can see, a good portion of the middle of the country is great for wind power. Keep in mind that this chart displays the wind speed at 30m. Most tower kits will be about 45 feet. Even if you do live in a great windy area, you would still be lucky to get above 100 watts on average with these microturbines.

If you really had extremely strong winds, the wind power could be way more productive than your most efficient solar setup. For that reason, it really is a good option for people that have consistent wind. The key is consistency. If you know that your wind doesn’t ever go below 10mph, it could be a great setup for you. I recommend making your own calculations and consulting with someone before purchasing a wind turbine and tower kit.

You can pickup a wind meter online and start calculating average wind speeds in your area. Alternatively you can base it off of readings from your town in general. You can use Weather Spark to search your city’s average wind speed. If you use one of these methods you can at least get an idea of how much power you’ll be producing every month. It’s important to remember that the average wind speed is often measured from a high tower, so keep that in mind. Ground-level wind can be very turbulent. Wind turbines need wind that is consistently flowing in a single direction.

How Practical is Setting Up a Small Wind Turbine

If you live in one of the areas in the United States with great wind, how practical is the setup of one of these towers? First of all, if you already have a solar system. A wind turbine is pretty easy to connect to an existing battery that you have. Most solar charge controllers won’t be able to add another inconsistent power source, but you can use a separate charge controller to keep your batteries charged when the solar is unavailable. You can use the Flexcharge charge controller and lead acid batteries for a really easy power backup setup.

Wind Turbines are Loud

You’ll almost certainly want to put it on a guyed tower. If you put it on your house, the vibration and noise will be annoying to deal with. Solar panels as a power generation source are mostly silent on the other hand. Solar inverters do make noise, but not nearly as much as a wind turbine.

Why Solar Almost Always Makes More Sense

As stated previously, the cost to setup solar is very affordable. The actual costs of panels have gone down substantially from year to year. This is because the technology keeps getting developed. Residential solar is a growing industry with a lot of innovation every year. When you look at residential wind power, the prices for components have remained about the same over the years. It’s just not as popular to setup and is a more complex setup. Therefore it should be considered when the conditions are optimal and solar isn’t an option.

Solar panels are very reliable as long as there is sunlight in your area. They don’t require much maintenance either. If you need help creating a wind or solar power generation solution, just contact us.

Scott Hunt

Scott Hunt is the owner of Practical Preppers LLC and an expert on sustainable living. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York (1992). Scott is a sustainable living design engineer specializing in off-grid water and energy systems. “As a Prepper I strive towards self sufficiency, energy efficiency, alternative energy, conservation and helping others do the same.” - Scott