Hot Home Wind Turbines You Can Actually Buy, Plus One You Wish You Could

A Swedish wind turbine designed for individual properties.

Rikki Mitterer / Wikimedia / C BY-SA 4.0

Though solar panels definitely hog the renewable energy stage when it comes to home installations, a number of new, innovative wind turbines have entered the market in the past couple of months. Not all of these are intended to be mounted on your roof, some you'll need a bit of a yard (and a dearth of neighbors) to install and they vary in price from affordable to "when am I going to actually pay this off?", but they all go to show that there's more than one way to harness the wind to generate electricity. Check 'em out:

The Windspire

Though not the highest priced backyard wind turbine out there, the $5000 Windspire from Mariah Power has been around for a bit (we first reported on it back in September of 2007) but nonetheless it just one an award from Popular Science for being among the Best of What's New '08.

At a rated capacity of 1.2 kilowatts, Mariah Power says that you can probably generate 25-30% of an average home's power with the Windspire. At 30 feet tall and 2 feet wide, the Windspire probably isn't suitable for every location—though its noise levels (20 db at 40 feet) won't disturb anyone—and based on current electric rates it'll take a while to pay this one off.

That said, it is a cool design, and perhaps now that Mariah Power will have a new factory up and running in Michigan and production ramps up a bit, they'll be able to drop that price a bit.

The Energy Ball

energy ball photo

Courtesy of Home Energy

The Energy Ball from Swedish firm Home Energy (whose website is still only in Swedish) is one of the most distinctive looking—and by that I definitely mean cool looking—home wind turbines out there.

There are two models available: The V100 (43" in diameter, 0.5 kW capacity) has a list price of about SKr 30,400 ($3690); and the V200 (78" in diameter, 2.5 kW capacity) which runs about SKr 57,000 ($6900). Both those prices are without mounting materials. Home Energy estimates that the V200 could supply 50% of an average home's energy needs, while its smaller sibling is best seen as a supplement to other energy sources. What's more, Home Energy claims that the Energy Ball is "completely silent".

A brief apology/update: How I missed the fact that Home Energy has a website in English (cursing myself for muddling through the Swedish one...), is beyond me. Nonetheless that's the case.

Air Breeze

air breeze photo

Courtesy of Southwest Windpower

The Air Breeze from Southwest Windpower really fills a different niche than either of the preceding wind turbines. With a rated capacity of only 200 watts, the Air Breeze is intended to be used in off-grid locations such as rural cabins, or in marine applications rather than powering up (or even offsetting a good part of) an average home. But if you don't need a lot of power, and maybe already have some solar panels on your private little off-grid hideaway, then perhaps the 46" wide, rather slick-looking, Air Breeze is perfect for you.

It's also not that expensive (for a wind turbine...); the Air Breeze will set you back $600-700.

Swift Rooftop Energy System

swift rooftop energy system photo

Courtesy of Cascade Engineering

Announced back in October, the Swift Rooftop Energy System is another turbine which claims to be dead quiet (though I'm not sure less than 35 decibels is really 'dead quiet'). Made in Michigan by Cascade Engineering, the Swift is rated at 1.5 kW and has a blade diameter of 7 feet. Like many of these, it's pretty slick looking too.

That's all good news; the less good news is that the estimate cost to install one of these is in the $10,000-12,000 range—which means that given current energy prices Swift's maker's prediction that you can pay this off in three years is, well, optimistic.

Phillipe Starck's Wind Turbine

Designer Phillipe Starck speaks using his hands.

Stefania D'Alessandro / Contributor / Getty Images

Phillipe Starck's wind turbine is the odd one out in the group, but not because of its design—as striking as it is, the other wind turbines in this list are no slouches in the design department—but because since its announcement back in the summer it's just sort been hanging out there in the ether. Since its debut we've learned little more, but since both in terms of price point (low) and design concept (high) it's worth bringing back up.

This is what we do know about its tech specs (such as they are): It's expected to generate between 20-60% of an average home's electric needs, is made of clear polycarbonate, and (should it actually be available to purchase) expected to sell for €400 ($500).

Given that normally a bit more in the way of technical data is made available at the announcement of a new renewable energy product, especially one whose design is bound to attract naysayers, I have to wonder whether this one will ever see the light of day. But should it actually get produced, I'd be surprised if a good number of people don't fork out the cash, just to be able to say, "yes, that thing is actually a wind turbine."