Monthly Archives: November 2010

You Need to “Fly” a Mini Wind Turbine

Fancy a mini wind turbine? Like to save a bundle on energy cost or even make money by “selling” back — that is, export or feed-out electricity– to the grid? Sounds good?

Well it is — unless you get tricked into buying one of those attrative, cheap, and too-good-to-be-true junk turbines or dream up the impossible. Both are going to not work and will only cost you money. They will also give mini wind turbines or Home Power in general a bad name. Educate yourself before you buy! Be aware of the physical constaints and don’t ever assume that it might be possible to spin some little wheel from China up on your roof for a few hundred bucks or so. Never ever assume to even make lots of money from a junk turbine either.

It is just not that easy.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, this applies as much to Home Power generation as to any other area this phrase has been coined for. Do not believe any adverts touting cheap or apparently “affordable” products that will cover all your electricity needs or even promise you to effortlessly cash in big on “excess energy” exported to the grid. If it sounds “too good to be true”, it usually is. If it promises spectacular percentage returns, slash a few zeros. Don’t overestimate the potential of Home Power. Don’t expect to get rich quick, get rid of all your worries or make a lot of money with your mini wind turbine.

This does not mean it can’t be done — you need to know what you’re doing though, and you just won’t get it for “cheap”.

First of all, you need to live in a suitable location or at least have a chance to set up a proper tower for your mini wind project. Not all kinds of “wind” are suitable just because you can feel it in your face. The energy that can be harvested from the wind is better in “clean” wind situations. Buildings, trees and terrain shape may slow down the wind or cause turbulence. Slow wind, obviously, decreases potential energy output and may “cost” you some of your return. Turbulences do the same but also cause additional stress on the turbine, decrease its lifetime and, that way, may cost you even more. Overly simplified and as a rule of thumb, a mini wind turbine needs to sit about 30 feet above any obstacle within a 300 feet range. To get good results, a 40 foot tower would be needed in most areas. Unless for very special tubine designs or in a particularly suitable spot, roof-top deployment is not suitable.

This is why people say “flying” a mini wind turbine.

Flying is expensive — this also applies to flying your mini wind turbine. A suitable tower may very well cost as much as the turbine itself. Still, this is a good investment as it would be a waste of money to use a tower that is too low: if feeding-out electricity to the grid is your objective, this would be uneconomical and unnecessarily prolong the payback period of your equipment or make your mini wind project inefficient by design.

The bottom line is: never buy any garbage turbine from China or your average sweat-shop economy across the ocean, over alibaba.com, or eBay or you’ll lose money. Never use a tower that is too low or you’ll lose a good part of your profits (or the chance to make any profits at all). You don’t find suitable turbines in a local garden center either. Educate yourself before you spend any serious money, read a few books and know what you are doing before you buy your equipment. If you do it right, you may be able to make some money or even come up with very decent returns percentagewise. The key is doing your homework and knowing your numbers (which includes doing a proper wind survey). Then, Mini Wind may indeed turn out to be what you always were looking for.