What you need to know before you buy it

A wind turbine is an efficient way for a household to reduce its electricity costs. Those with sufficient funds can even become energy independent by using such a system.

In this article we won’t cover the complex issues related to the topic – exactly how much you can reduce consumption thanks to a turbine, power, legislation, state support programmes – but we will discuss the most important aspects that a person who knows almost nothing about wind turbines but wants to use such a device to produce green energy should take into account.

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Before buying a wind turbine, these basic things should be considered:

Wind speed in the area

This is a very important piece of information to be known by those who want to install a turbine in their yard or on their house. Wind turbines operate at full capacity at a certain wind speed and will not start if the wind is not strong enough. For example, the Survival Wind Turbine has maximum efficiency at 40 km/h and operates in the range 13 – 60 km/h. To measure wind speed you can use a special device called an anemometer, commercially available.

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Apparatus for measuring wind speed.

Very important: many turbines tolerate a certain maximum wind speed, specified by the manufacturer. If this is exceeded, the devices can be seriously damaged.

Turbine position

The wind turbine should be mounted in an area where the wind can reach it without being impeded by obstacles such as trees, houses or fences.

If you do not have such a place you will need to build a tall tower on which to mount the device. For downwind wind turbines (the wind meets the nacelle first and then the propeller) the direction of the wind matters a lot, as they do not have a tail to point them in the right direction.

Figure b shows a downwind wind turbine.

What type of wind turbine do I choose

There are two main categories of wind turbines. The most common are turbines with a horizontal axis parallel to the wind direction. There are also turbines with a vertical axis (perpendicular to the wind direction).

Vertical axis wind turbine.

Vertical ones can process winds coming from any direction (some even from above) and are more suitable for urban or suburban areas where there are many buildings. This is why these wind turbines have shorter periods of downtime. However, vertical axis turbines are heavier and are not as efficient as horizontal axis turbines in strong winds.

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Horizontal-axis turbines are also of two types, upwind (the wind hits the propeller first, then the nacelle) and downwind (see figure above). The latter are cheaper and simpler. Moreover, because they can have flexible bladed propellers (no risk of hitting the tower when it bends), they can take some of the pressure off the tower on which they are mounted.

Wind energy is unpredictable

Unlike solar panels, which constantly produce power, a wind turbine can have long periods of time when it produces nothing. There are many factors that determine wind speed, and these include atmospheric pressure or air temperature.

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In too little wind the wind turbine won’t work, and in too much wind it won’t be effective. That’s why it’s good to have the systems connected to batteries to store the energy produced when it’s windy.

Wind turbines can kill animals

If you’re someone who’s very concerned about protecting the surrounding ecosystem, you might be better off opting for solar panels. Wind turbines quite frequently kill birds, bats, bees and other animals.

The problem is, however, fortunately less of an issue with small consumer turbines.

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