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How Do Wind Power Systems Work?
Will Wind Power Work Well at My Home?
How Much Do Wind Power Systems Cost?
What Will I Save on My Electrical Bill?
Are There Incentives and Financing Opportunities?
Where Can I Find a Wind Power Contractor?
Although wind’s greatest potential lies in large regional installations, by investing in a small wind system for your home, farm, or business, you can reduce pollution, reduce future energy costs, and increase your own energy independence.
If you are building a home in a remote location, a small wind energy system can help you avoid the high costs of extending utility power lines to your site.
Wind energy is a fully domestic source of energy and one of Maryland’s greatest homegrown and natural sources of energy. Wind energy is totally clean, requiring no combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, and wind turbines don't produce atmospheric emissions that cause acid rain or greenhouse gasses.
Meeting an increased demand for wind power requires an increase in manufacturing – potential for Maryland to capitalize on its workforce and strategic location. Maryland is already home to innovative wind companies such as Skystream and Clean Currents.
All wind systems consist of a wind turbine, a tower, wiring, and supporting components: controllers, inverters, and/or batteries. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical power, like operating a water pump or a granary on a farm. A generator then converts this mechanical power into electricity.
Home wind turbines consist of a rotor, a generator mounted on a frame, and (usually) a tail.
The rotor captures the energy from the spinning blades to drive the generator. How much energy a turbine will produce depends on the diameter of the rotor, which determines how much wind can be captured by the turbine.
The frame is the strong central axis bar onto which the rotor, generator, and tail are attached.
The tail keeps the turbine facing into the wind.
Towers raise the turbine to a height where ground turbulence won’t interfere with its operation. “The higher the tower, the greater the power,” since wind speeds increase with altitude. A general rule of thumb is to install a wind turbine on a tower with the bottom of the rotor blades at least 30 feet above any obstacle that is within 300 feet of the tower.
Stand-alone systems require batteries and charge controllers to store excess power generated for use when the wind is calm.
Grid-connected systems require only an inverter that makes the turbine output electrically compatible with the utility grid. No batteries are needed.
Deciding whether to purchase a wind system is complicated, and there are many factors to consider. With the right location, a wind energy system delivers cost-effective, clean, and reliable electricity.
Wind turbines are more difficult to permit than other renewable power sources. Be sure to research potential legal and environmental obstacles in your area. If you plan to connect the wind generator to your local utility grid, find out its requirements for connecting and buying power before you move ahead.
The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) provides an anemometer loan program to help property owners quantify and characterize the wind resources available at their property.
Small wind energy systems can be applied for residential use in two ways:
Average annual wind speeds of at least 10 miles per hour;
Utility-supplied electricity costs 10 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour or more where you live and requirements for connecting renewable power to the grid are not expensive;
Local building codes and neighborhood covenants allow you to legally place a wind turbine on your property.
Average annual wind speeds of at least 9 miles per hour;
Grid connections are not available or can only be made through an expensive extension;
Supplementary systems or resources exist for dealing with the intermittent nature of wind and ensuring consistent power supply.
Wind turbine manufacturers can provide you with the expected annual energy output of the turbine as a function of annual average wind speed. The manufacturer will also provide information on the maximum wind speed in which the turbine is designed to operate safely. Most turbines have automatic speed-governing systems to keep the rotor from spinning out of control in very high winds. This information, along with your local wind speed distribution and your energy budget, is sufficient to allow you to specify turbine size.
Costs for wind power systems vary greatly depending on factors such as turbine size, tower construction and if you are able to install components of the system yourself. Some wind power kits cost as little as $6,000 while fully installed systems might run $65,000. But don’t get sticker shock! Many cities and counties in Maryland offer low or no interest loans and property tax incentives for the purchase of wind power systems. Rebates, tax credits, and exemptions are available from the Federal and state governments too. See the MCEC Residential Financial Incentives page for more details.
Savings can run from 50% to 90% of traditional electrical systems depending on the specifics of your system. And each year you save more by avoiding increases in fossil fuel costs.
The Federal government is offering the Investment Tax Credit—a 30% credit against income taxes due to the IRS. Owners of small wind systems with 100 kilowatts (kW) of capacity or less can receive a credit for 30% of the total installed cost of the system.
Grid-connected-system owners may be eligible to receive a small tax credit for the electricity they sell back to the utility. The National Energy Policy Act of 1992 and the 1978 Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) are two programs that apply to small independent power producers.
The state of Maryland offers a Clean Energy Production Tax Credit for residents who generate electricity from wind and other clean energy sources.
Maryland’s Windswept Program provides grants for the purchase and installation of small-scale wind turbines.
Many local jurisdictions offer exemptions and credits on personal property taxes that can offset the cost of purchasing and installing wind systems. And some utilities offer rebates or other incentives. For an expansive list of programs from the federal, state and local governments, go to the MCEC Residential Financial Incentives page.
A credible wind power installer will provide many services such as permitting. Find out if the installer can provide a list of references and ask the following questions when looking for a wind contractor:
Use the MCEC resource directory to identify Maryland companies who specialize in residential wind installations.