Small Wind Energy Systems (Wind Turbines) contain electric generators that convert the power of the wind into clean, emissions-free power for individual homes, farms, and businesses. In most areas of the country small turbines may be suitable for owners with as little as one acre of land , and some designs may even be suitable for roof-mounting in certain urban environments.
What are the benefits of wind systems?
By using a wind turbine to produce most of, or all of the electricity they need, consumers can protect themselves from future increases in the cost of utility-provided electricity. The monthly loan payment to to finance a wind system should be less than a property owner already pays his or her utility for electricity, so a properly designed, properly sited wind turbine would yield that owner immediate savings. Moreover, with returns on investment in the range of 10%-20% property owners will pay for their systems long before their systems will need to be replaced. This means that after property owners have made the last installment payment on their loans, their wind systems will then be producing electricity at no cost other than the modest cost of maintaining the system. If wind system owners live in a state that permits net-metering, those owner will also receive additional income in the form of renewable energy credits (RECs)--they will be paid to produce wind-produced electricity.
What are renewable energy certificates/credits (RECs)?
Renewable energy certificates or renewable energy credits (SRECs) are are issued only in those states that have Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) legislation.
RPS legislation requires utilities to deliver electricity to their customers that is produced from a combination of renewable and non-renewable resources (the "portfolio" of electricity generated to meet their customers' needs). RPS legislation requires utilities to include in their electricity portfolios a specific percentage of electricity from renewable resources, including wind. RECs are electronic tags assigned to each megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity produced from renewable sources, like wind. The electronic tags allow utilities to certify that they have included the mandated percentage of electricity from renewable sources in their portfolios.
Wind turbine owners in states with RPS legislation receive additional income from their systems by selling the RECs assigned to the electricity that their wind systems produce. RECs thus increase the economic value of an owner's investment in a wind system and, in conjunction with state and federal tax incentives, make it easier to finance the wind system.
What is Net Metering?
Net metering is an electricity policy for consumers who produce electricity with small wind turbines or photovoltaic (PV) panels. (Net metering is generally available only for systems that are used to power individual homes or businesses--not larger systems that are built by utilities.) "Net" means "what remains after deductions" — in this case, the amount of wind- or PV-produced electricity that exceeds the amount required to power the property owner's home or business. This "net" (surplus) amount of electricity is sold back to the utility via the grid. The surplus electricity is credited against the charge for any electricity that the property owner took from the grid (at night, for example, when the sun is not out). If during the course of the year a property owner produces more electricity than he or she has taken from the grid, the utility will pay him or her for that annual surplus power.
Most electricity meters accurately record in both directions--charging property owners when they draw electricity from the grid, and crediting them when they produce surplus providing a no-cost method to bank net surpluses of electricity production for future credit. Most net metering laws require owners to pay a small monthly connection fee; require consumers to pay a monthly electric bill if they use more electricity than their system produces during that billing period; require utilities to carry kWh credits forward into future billing periods; and require utilities to pay owners for any residual kWh credits at the end of each year.
Is My Site Suitable for a Wind System?
In order for a wind system to be a practical choice there must first, of course, be enough wind to produce a sufficient amount of electricity. You'll find suggestions on how to begin to determine whether your site is suitable under the caption "Additional Resources," below.