E2T How To: Install a Wind Turbine

If you read our write-up about four wee wind startups making turbines for the small-scale wind power market and are looking for a weekend project, there are a few things you should check out before climbing onto the roof with a pinwheel.

Do you have enough wind?

Before you can exploit your wind resource, you need to make sure you’ve got enough of a breeze to make it worthwhile. The DOE’s Department for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy recommends an average wind speed of 9 mph for a stand-alone system and 10 mph for a grid-connected turbine. If you can’t get your hands on Second Wind‘s super-sweet Triton Sonic Wind Profiler, which measures wind speeds using sound, check out the wind resource map from the National Renewable Energy Lab to make sure you’ve got the gusts.

What will the neighbors say?

Before you get too excited about your very own windmill, you should check the local zoning ordinances lest you upset the Joneses. It’s best to talk to your neighbors before you start unless you want to defend your breezy hopes at a public hearing called in your name. In most areas there is a height limit on the structures you can have on your property and most turbines need to up at about 80 feet. Having at least half an acre of land is a good minimum to make sure you’re not treading too close to the picket fences.

What’s your credit limit?

A wind energy system can run anywhere from $6,000 to $22,000. As for a return on your investment, the American Wind Energy Association estimates that a residential turbine can make your money back in as little at six years but more likely it will take around 15 years to see your investment blow into the black.

Are you a DIYer?

Almost all of the residential turbine dealers (linked below) offer turn-key solutions for their customers, but if you want to get into the nuts, bolts, gearboxes and blades of your turbine, many will sell you just the equipment. This will save you a ton of money on installation, maintenance and support but it will cost on installation, maintenance and support should something go wrong.

If you’re really serious about reenacting “Don Quixote,” in your backyard, check out these comprehensive resources where much of this information came from.