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wind turbine generating green energy Generating Electricity with a Wind Turbine
by April Sanders

Wind energy is the fastest-growing source of energy in the United States. Clean and relatively inexpensive wind turbines harness the energy in wind and are an attractive option for those looking for an alternative way to power their homestead. Wind turbines can be used to power a single home, or several turbines can be connected to power an electrical grid. Using a single residential wind turbine can decrease the homeowner's
electrical bill by as much as 90%.

Wind turbines, like all turbines, are engines that convert kinetic energy into mechanical energy. They consist of two or three blades designed to rotate in the wind. The blades are connected to a shaft, which in turn is connected to a generator. The turbines are placed atop tall towers (residential turbines average around 100 feet tall) to better capture the energy in wind. When enough wind moves the blades, they rotate enough to power up the generator, producing electricity.

In residential applications, wind turbines are typically used in conjunction with a local utility company. One turbine rated in the range of 5 to 15 kilowatts is all that is needed to provide enough power to run the average household. If the wind speed drops below 10 mph, electricity is provided by solely by the utility company. When the wind speeds are higher than 10 mph, the wind turbine works with the grid to supply power to the home. The higher the wind, the more power the turbine will produce. In cases where the wind turbine produces more power than the house needs, the extra power created by the turbine can be sold to the utility company. This transfer of power between the turbine and utility provider is automatic and does not need to be managed by the homeowner.

small roof mounted wind turbineBefore investing in a wind turbine system, consider the following factors. Wind turbines only work in areas that get a fair amount of wind. Homes that are tucked into the shelter of hills are not suited to wind power. If you are unsure about the amount of wind on your property, you will need to take wind measurements for at least a few months before investing in a wind turbine system. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) suggests that a potential wind turbine owner should have an average wind speed of 10 MPH on his property.

Wind turbines are also quite large. While they don't take up a lot of horizontal space, they do tower vertically over nearby homes and trees. For this reason, wind turbines should not be used in suburban areas. In fact, the AWEA recommends a minimum property size of one acre.

Be sure to think carefully about possible legal and developmental issues. Some counties have height restrictions on structures. Neighbors might object to their view of the hills being blocked by a wind turbine, or they may complain about the noise it makes. A planned shopping mall might block access to the wind in five years. Finally, don't forget to contact your local utility company to make sure you can connect your wind turbine to their electrical grid before you actually do so.

Wind turbine systems designed for residential use range in cost from $6,000 to over $20,000, depending on size, warranty, and installation. Most systems include the tower and installation in the purchase price. The average homeowner will not recoup his monetary investment for a minimum of six years and probably not for at least ten years. The investment made in producing reliable, clean energy, however, will have an immediate and positive impact on the environment.

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