catch the wind
Residential wind turbines turn breezes into kilowatts
Written by JILL CONNORS
anyone in search of renewable energy breeze or up to a brisk 45-mile-per-hour blow. (Winds
sources for home electricity need look no higher than that trigger an overspeed control.) An in-
further than the storied New England breeze verter at the house’s electrical panel converts the wind-
that fills our sails and cools our faces. Wind turbines generated electricity into usable residential alternating
for residential use are gaining popularity among home- current (AC). Homeowners can even tie into the grid
owners as a way to fully or partially meet a home’s elec- and sell excess electricity back to the power company.
tricity needs. It’s no wonder why: New England has One acre is the minimum lot size necessary for
the highest cost of electricity in the country, averaging a pole-mounted turbine, which must be sited so no
15. 85 cents per kilowatt hour versus the national aver- obstacle blocks the wind. “The Cape, Martha’s Vine-
age of 10. 31 cents. There’s also the environmental cost yard, and coastal areas, where the prevailing winds
to consider. As in the rest of the country, New England’s are from the southwest, are ideal for a wind turbine,”
electricty is generated by coal, natural gas, and nuclear says Newell Thomas, project manager for Lighthouse
power plants. Electrical, a Pembroke, Massachusetts, company that
Both pole- and rooftop-mounted wind turbines are recently installed several 10-kilowatt pole-mounted
being used for private homes. A pole-mounted turbine Bergey turbines at homes in the southern Massachu-
sits atop an 80- to 100-foot steel pole. Its propellerlike setts towns of Dartmouth and Westport. The average
blades rotate to face the wind, operating in the lightest household in New England uses 8,000 to 10,000 kilo-
watt hours annually, and a 10-k W turbine (residential
wind turbines range from 1 to 15 k W) can generate up
to 14,000 k W hours per year, says Thomas.
Rooftop turbines are candidates for houses on
smaller lots, such as the property in Middletown, Rhode
Island, where Scott Milnes and Tim Hetland of Rhode
Island Wind Power, recently installed a Windterra 1-k W
model. Rooftop units are vertical-axis wind turbines,
which, because they are unidirectional, do not have to
rotate to face the wind. “With a 1-kW unit, you won’t
get all your household power, but you can reduce 180
to 260 kilowatt hours from your monthly electric bill,”
says Milnes, a hydronic contractor. He and Hetland, a
heating, ventilation, and air conditioning specialist, are
experimenting with various models of rooftop turbines,
including ones that can be installed within a cupola.
“That would be a great combination of aesthetics and
power,” says Hetland.
Permitting and cost are key considerations with a
residential wind turbine. Height restrictions in many
towns call for building no higher than 35 feet, which
would mean either a pole- or rooftop-mounted turbine
would require a special permit. The installed cost for
a 10-kW pole-mounted system ranges from $70,000 to
$85,000; for a 1-k W rooftop system, $10,000 to $12,000.
Most states offer a tax rebate for installing a wind turbine, with reimbursements between 25 and 50 percent of the installation cost. “At this stage,” says Newell Thomas, “it is mostly people with the means to do
something good who are installing wind turbines.” ❧
About Wind Power
dsireusa.org: The site gives
state-by-state information on
available rebates and tax
credits. The website name is
an acronym for Database of
State Incentives for
Renewables and Efficiency.
mtpc.org: The Massachusetts
Technology Collaborative, is
the state’s development
agency for renewable energy.
The site has information on
grants and rebates.
bergey.com: Website for
Bergey Windpower, a
manufacturer of pole-mounted wind turbines.
of roof-mounted wind
turbines based in Canada.
Click on “products” and check
out the weather cam for a
rooftop wind turbine in
Middletown, Rhode Island.
Click on “wind power” for
guidelines for determining
whether wind power is
suitable for you.
for more details,