Small wind turbines are electric generators that utilize wind energy to produce clean, emissions-free power for individual homes, farms, and small businesses. With this simple and increasingly popular technology, individuals can generate their own power and cut their energy bills while helping to protect the environment. The U.S. leads the world in the production of small wind turbines, which are defined as having rated capacities of 100 kilowatts and less, and the market is expected to continue strong growth through the next decade.
How do residential wind turbines work?
A wind turbine, which is installed on top of a tall tower, collects kinetic (motion) energy from the wind and converts it to electricity that is compatible with a home's electrical system.
In a normal residential application, a home is served simultaneously by the wind turbine and a local utility. If the wind speeds are below cut-in speed (7-10 mph)
– the minimum speed to spin the blades – there will be no output from the turbine and all of the needed power is purchased from the utility. As wind speeds increase, turbine output increases and the amount of power purchased from the utility is proportionately decreased. When the turbine produces more power than the house needs, many utilities institute a policy called “net metering” whereby the extra electricity is sold back to the utility. All of this is done automatically. There are no batteries in a modern, grid-connected residential wind system.
Small wind systems for remote (off-grid) applications operate somewhat differently and often charge batteries so electricity is available when the wind isn’t blowing.
More reading from the American Wind Energy Association: