Small Wind Guidebook/Is Wind Energy Practical for Me

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Is Wind Energy Practical for Me?

A small wind energy system can provide you with a practical and economical source of electricity if:

  • Your property has a good wind resource.
  • Your home or business is located on at least 1 acre of land.
  • Your local zoning codes or covenants allow wind turbines.
  • You can determine how much electricity you need or want to produce.
  • It works for you economically (you may be eligible for state/utility or federal incentives).
  • You're comfortable with long-term investments.
  • Your average electricity bills are $150 per month or more or you don't have access to utility grid power.[1]

You may wish to refer to the Small Wind Consumer's Guide Checklist, which was developed by the Northwest Wind Resource and Action Center. The document contains ten questions that interested parties should consider prior to installing a small wind energy system, as well as three common mistakes that should be avoided.

Zoning Issues

Small wind electric systems, like this Jacobs 20-kilowatt turbine, can provide electricity for a variety of electrical needs from home heating and lighting to water pumping for livestock. NREL/PIX 13311

Before you invest in a wind energy system, you should research potential obstacles. Some jurisdictions restrict the height of the structures permitted in residential-zoned areas, although variances may be obtained. Most zoning ordinances have a height limit of 35 feet.[2]

You can find out more about zoning requirements by:

  • Contacting the local building inspector, board of supervisors, or planning board. They can tell you if you will need to obtain a building permit and will provide you with a list of requirements.
  • Visiting the Distributed Wind Energy Association's Zoning Resource Center.

In addition to zoning issues, your neighbors might object to a wind turbine that blocks their view, or they might be concerned about the sound it produces. Most zoning and aesthetic concerns can be addressed by supplying objective data. For example, a typical 2-kilowatt wind turbine operates at a noise level of approximately 55 dB 50 feet away from the hub of the turbine.[3] At that level, the sound of the wind turbine can be picked out of surrounding noise if a conscious effort is made to hear it.


  1.  "U.S. Department of Energy. Is a Small Wind Energy System Right for You?"
  2.  "American Solar Energy Society, Small Wind Division Webinar. Overview: Zoning for Small Wind Turbines"
  3.  "American Planning Association. (2011). Planning for Wind Energy"