Small Wind is Beautiful

Like most Treehuggers, we occasionally succumb to daydreaming about living off the grid in an oh-so-tasteful strawbale cottage with an organic garden in the back... then the phone rings. While a rugged, romantic life of self-reliance isn't in the cards for most of us, generating your own power from a variety of renewable sources is a real possibility. If wind looks like your power source of choice, Canadian businessman and blogger Glen Estill has written a primer on small-scale wind generation that provides the details on grid-tied and off-grid systems. Glen notes that the easiest way to power your home or business renewably is to buy directly from providers of green electricity, but he also notes the great sense of satisfaction and independence that comes from installing wind turbines and using the power they generate.While much of the information Glen provides in his post applies directly to Canadians, many of the same opportunities and challenges exist in other countries: zoning regulations, net metering possibilities and, of course, local wind conditions. Glen expresses a bit of testiness for the biggest hurdle to on-site generation (and this is probably true everywhere): the local utility company:
We are so paranoid about accurate metering and safety, that we use a sledge hammer to kill a mosquito. If a small wind turbine generates 2000 KWh/year, and the meter runs backwards 10% of the time, then we are measuring 200 kWh to feed onto the grid. If the meter running backward is inaccurate in the backward mode by 1% (likely a higher error rate than may exist), then we are talking about a measurement error of 2 kWh. That’s worth 20 cents. How much extra should we pay for metering to reduce this error? About $2. But of course the added cost far exceed this. The same is true of safety. The utilities are afraid that a wind turbine will continue to generate when the grid is off for maintenance. But inverters and turbines generally have controls to prevent this. Are visible external disconnects really necessary?
While we always enjoy a good rant, the information that Glen provides for do-it-yourselfer proves quite valuable: you'll know what to look for and what questions to ask when purchasing a system, or the components to build one. Additionally, he points to a number of books that will lead you through your small wind project, whether it be a grid-tied suburban system or that independent turbine powering the dream strawbale cottage. :: Wind Blog by Glen Estill