Small Wind Guidebook/Introduction

From Open Energy Information



Can I use wind energy to power my home? More people across the country are asking this question as they look for a hedge against increasing electricity rates and a way to harvest their local wind resources. Although wind turbines large enough to provide a significant portion of the electricity needed by the average U.S. home generally require 1 acre of property or more, approximately 21 million U.S. homes are built on 1-acre and larger sites, and 19.3% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas. [1] Small wind electric systems can contribute to our nation’s energy needs.

Homeowners, ranchers, and small businesses can use wind turbines, like this Skystream 3.7 residential turbine, to reduce their utility bills. Photo from Southwest Windpower, NREL 15030

A small wind electric system will work for you if:

  • There is enough wind where you live
  • Tall towers are allowed in your neighborhood or rural area (or you live in flat terrain with no tall obstacles nearby)
  • You have enough space
  • You can determine how much electricity you need or want to produce
  • You can interconnect with your utility service provider (assuming you have a grid-connection application)
  • It works for you economically.

This guide will provide you with basic information about small wind electric systems to help you decide if wind energy will work for you.

Why Should I Choose Wind?

Wind energy systems can be one of the most cost-effective home-based renewable energy systems. Depending on your wind resource, a small wind energy system can lower your electricity bill slightly or up to 100%, help you avoid the high costs of extending utility power lines to remote locations, and sometimes can provide DC or off-grid power.[2] In addition, wind energy is clean, indigenous, renewable energy.

How Do Wind Turbines Work?

Wind is created by the unequal heating of the Earth’s surface by the sun. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical power that runs a generator to produce clean electricity.[3] Today’s turbines are versatile modular sources of electricity.[4] Their blades are aerodynamically designed to capture the maximum energy from the wind.[5] The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft connected to a generator or the generator's rotor, which makes electricity.[3]


  1.  "U.S. Census Bureau. 2010 Census"
  2.  "U.S. Department of Energy. Small Wind Electric Systems"
  3. 3.0 3.1  "U.S. Department of Energy. How Do Wind Turbines Work?"
  4.  "National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Wind Energy Basics: How Wind Turbines Work"
  5.  "Alliance for Rural Electrification"