A cool breeze on a hot summer day always feels great, but when that breeze is also running your dishwasher, computer, and TV set, it’ll feel even more refreshing. More and more people these days are harnessing the wind’s energy and using it to generate electricity for their homes. In fact, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says that in 2007, wind power installations increased by 45% in the United States, and in 2008, we should, for the first time, see over 1 percent of the nation’s electricity generated by the wind. That doesn’t sound like much but it translates into 5,244 megawatts of energy and $9 billion in sales and installation costs.
While the U.S. still lags far behind countries like Germany and Spain in wind energy use, interest is definitely growing as we search for better ways to conserve natural resources, reduce global warming emissions, reduce pollution, and free ourselves from the oil and fossil fuel companies.
Electricity Use In The U.S.A.
- If you leave a 40 watt light bulb burning for 24 hours, it will use up approximately 1 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity.
- One kilowatt hour from the utility grid generates 1.5 pounds of carbon dioxide – almost half a pound of carbon emissions.
- It takes 1 gallon of oil to produce 40 kilowatt hours of electricity.
- The average household uses over 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year.
- In 2007, the average cost for electricity from the utility grid was about 10.7¢ per kilowatt hour.
What About Wind Power?
- In 2007, average cost per kilowatt hour of electricity generated by residential wind energy systems was between 10–11¢ per kilowatt hour.
- In 2007, average cost per kilowatt hour of electricity generated by utility-scale wind turbines was 4–7¢ per kilowatt hour.
- One 10 kilowatt wind turbine system, operating at a site where the average wind speed is at least 12 mph, can generate around 10,000 kilowatts per year.
How Does Wind Power Work?
A modern residential wind turbine is complex. Here are some of its most basic components:
The tower supports the wind turbine and gets it up above trees, buildings, and other obstacles. Residential wind turbine towers are usually between 30 and 100 feet tall. In most cases, increased tower height results in better performance of the wind turbine system. The wind turbine attaches to the top of the tower on a bearing that allows it to rotate freely towards the direction of the wind.