Every month, the electrical bill arrives. We turn off lights and change to efficient bulbs, but still the bill comes. Will it ever end? The answer might be blowing in the wind.
Lately, wind turbines have been maligned as bird killers, noise makers and just generally inefficient. While it’s true that the mega-turbines have issues, small-scale systems can be an excellent option for home electricity generation.
Start with an audit of your energy consumption by using your existing electrical bills to create a picture of your energy needs. Try and reduce that amount as much as you can. Get EnergyStar-rated appliances. Replace all your lightbulbs with CFLs or LEDs. Get rid of the second fridge. Reducing your consumption is the best first step since the less electricity you need, the cheaper and easier it will be to find a system to supply it.
Then, check your local bylaws to see if wind turbines are permitted. You will need adequate clearance from trees, power lines and buildings to avoid turbulence. Turbulence stirs up the wind stream and makes it difficult for the turbine to spin efficiently.
Wind turbines can be vertical or horizontal. Horizontals need to be aimed directly at the wind or they may come with a tailvane that points them into the wind. Vertical options work no matter what direction the wind is coming from. Both need significant mounting systems and need to be very high – 30 metres or more – to be effective. The higher the turbine, the more wind and the more electricity generated.
Use your annual energy consumption as a guideline for how large a system you will need to purchase. You can refer to the Government of Canada’s wind atlas to determine the annual wind speed of your area. For example, in Belleville, Ontario, the mean annual windspeed is about 4.4 metres per second. Some wind turbines are only effective at 10 m/s, so research before you buy.
If you generate more electricity than you need, Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) Program will buy your electricity through the grid and allow you to buy back what you need. Since the feed-in price is generally higher than what you pay, this might be an attractive option.
Think of what a great feeling it would be to think of every windy day as a great day for electricity.