Small Wind Guidebook/What Size Wind Turbine Do I Need

Jump to: navigation, search
Print PDF
WIND ENERGY STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT & OUTREACHSmall Wind Guidebook Home

What Size Wind Turbine Do I Need?

The size of the wind turbine you need depends on your application. Small turbines range in size from 20 Watts to 100 kilowatts (kW). The smaller or “micro” (20- to 500-Watt) turbines are used in applications such as charging batteries for recreational vehicles and sailboats.

One- to 10-kW turbines can be used in applications such as pumping water. Wind energy has been used for centuries to pump water and grind grain. Although mechanical windmills still provide a sensible, low-cost option for pumping water in low-wind areas, farmers and ranchers are finding that wind-electric pumping is more versatile and they can pump twice the volume for the same initial investment. In addition, mechanical windmills must be placed directly above the well, which may not take advantage of available wind resources. Wind-electric pumping systems can be placed where the wind resource is the best and connected to the pump motor with an electric cable. However, in areas with a low wind resource, mechanical windmills can provide more efficient water pumping.

This Southwest Windpower Whisper 175 wind turbine on the Lion Spring Farm in Dover, Massachusetts, supplies electricity for the house and barn. NREL/PIX 12564

Turbines used in residential applications can range in size from 400 Watts to 100 kW (100 kW for very large loads), depending on the amount of electricity you want to generate. For residential applications, you should establish an energy budget and see whether financial incentives are available. This information will help determine the turbine size you will need. Because energy efficiency is usually less expensive than energy production, making your house more energy efficient will probably be more cost effective and will reduce the size of the wind turbine you need (see How Can I Make My Home More Energy Efficient?). Wind turbine manufacturers, dealers, and installers can help you size your system based on your electricity needs and the specifics of your local wind resource and micro-siting.

A typical home uses approximately 11,500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year (about 960 kWh per month).[1] Depending on the average wind speed in the area, a wind turbine rated in the range of 5 to 15 kW would be required to make a significant contribution to this demand. A 1.5-kW wind turbine will meet the needs of a home requiring 300 kWh per month in a location with a 14 MPH (6.26 meters per second) annual average wind speed.[2] The manufacturer, dealer, or installer can provide you with the expected annual energy output of the turbine as a function of annual average wind speed. The manufacturer will also provide information about any maximum wind speeds at which the turbine is designed to operate safely. Most turbines have automatic overspeed-governing systems to keep the rotor from spinning out of control in extremely high winds.

Along with information about your local wind resource (wind speed and direction) and your energy budget, this information will help you decide which size turbine will best meet your electricity needs.

References

  1.  "Energy Information Administration. How much electricity does an American home use?"
  2.  "U.S. Department of Energy. Installing and Maintaining a Small Wind Electric System"