Top 5 Small Wind Turbines (Horizontal Axis)

They have been around for centuries, but they are quickly becoming the darlings of the eco-friendlies and clean energy nuts. Windmills, or in this case, wind energy generators, come in all shapes and sizes.

But in actuality, how feasible and cost-effective would it be for you to integrate a small wind system at your home, cabin, or camp? It might be easier than you might think. And if the small-wind tax credit somehow holds onto its tenuous place in the farm bill, it might just be cost-effective for you to invest one that can help defray, or even eliminate your monthly electricity bill.

The economics will be different for everyone, so I am not necessarily encouraging you all to run out and buy a micro wind turbine. I will also warn you that interconnection laws vary by country, state, province, municipality, etc. So, before spending ANY money on one of these gizmos, be certain that you have an adequate wind resource, and if you are planning on connecting to the grid, that you understand the interconnection standards that apply.

1. Southwest Windpower Skystream 3.7

skystream, small-wind, wind-turbine, micro-turbineThe Skystream 3.7 is the first fully-integrated, grid-tied wind energy system designed for residential use. This “plug and play” turbine is an all-inclusive wind generator (with controls and inverter built in) designed to provide quiet, clean electricity in very low winds.

Unlike many other turbines, the Skystream 3.7 will turn downwind because it has no tail rudder to keep it facing into the wind.

Cost*: $5399 (not including tower and installation materials)

Rated Capacity: 1.9 kW continuous output, 2.6 kW peak

Startup Windspeed:8mph

Rotor: 12 feet (3.72 m); 50-325 RPM

Interconnection: Utility connected or battery charging

Alternator: Gearless, permanent magnet brushless

Voltage Output: 240 VAC (Optional 208 VAC)

Estimated Energy Production: 400 kw per month @ 12 MPH (5.4 m/s)

2. Southwest Windpower Air X

southwest windpower,The AIR is the world’s number one selling small wind turbine. The redesigned Air X incorporates a new microprocessor-based technology that results in increased performance, improved battery charging capability, greater reliability and the reduction of “flutter” noise from the machine.

The Air X is ideally designed for powering small appliances in off-grid installations, remote communications facilities, marine applications, and communities in the developing world.

Cost: $600

Rated Capacity:400 watts

Startup Windspeed:8mph

Rotor: 46 inches (1.14 m)

Interconnection: Battery charging

Voltage Output: 12, 24, 48 VDC

Estimated Energy Production: 38 kw per month @ 12 MPH (5.4 m/s)

3. AeroVironment Architectural Wind

aeroventure, architectural-wind, modular-wind, urban wind

Architectural Wind is a small, modular wind turbine system designed for installation on buildings in urban and suburban areas. This is done by eliminating the support tower, reducing noise and vibration, and creating a modular housing that installs quickly and easily onto buildings, without penetrating the roof.

The turbine design has received critical praise for a while now, receiving the Red Dot International Design award and a 2007 Annual Design Review award. With a sleek, color-matched series of specially designed, highly efficient and low profile wind turbines, property owners can integrate Architectural Wind systems easily into new and existing buildings. As Preston at Jetson Green pointed out, the AeroVironment turbines have been installed at the new Kettle Chip facility in Beloit, WI that can produce roughly 28,000 kilowatt hours of power per year under normal wind conditions.

Architectural Wind is scalable and works very well in urban environments. The price and output of the machines will vary because of the drastically different requirements of individual installations. If you need more information on cost and specs, you can contact AeroVironment through their website.

4. Southwest Windpower Whisper 500

small wind turbine, whisper, whisper 500The Whisper 500 can produce enough energy to power a small to moderately sized home. Formerly the Whisper 175, the Whisper 500 was completely redesigned in 2004 to work in harsh, high wind environments.

The Whisper 500 is a two bladed fiberglass reinforced blade and incorporates a patented “angle governor,” designed for quiet operations in high winds. Side-furling overspeed protection turns alternator and blades out of high winds without cutting power output.

Cost: $7,095

Rated Capacity: 3kw

Startup Windpeed: 7.5mph

Rotor: 15 feet (4.6 m)

Interconnection: Utility connected or battery charging

Voltage Output: 24, 32, 48 VDC or 240 VAC

Estimated Energy Production: 1500 KWh/month @12.5mph

5. Bergey Excel

bergey windpower, bergey, excelThe Bergey Excel is designed for high reliability, low maintenance, and automatic operation in adverse weather conditions. It is available in two configurations: battery charging and grid-tied.

The Excel is a ruggedly built turbine that comes with a 5 year warranty. Connected to the grid, the BWC EXCEL can provide most of the electricity for an average total electric home at moderate wind sites. The all new GridTek 10 power processor (inverter) is the most advanced in the industry and it carries a full UL certification to the latest utility standards.

In a location with moderate winds, the Excel 10kw can provide enough electricity for the average home.

Cost: $21,900-$27,900

Rated Capacity: 10kw

Startup Windspeed:7.5 mph

Rotor: 22 feet (6.7 m)

Interconnection: Utility connected or battery charging

Voltage Output: 48 VDC or 120, 240 VAC

Estimated Energy Production: 1500 KWh/month @12.5mph

*Note: Prices listed are the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, it is quite possible to find them for less (nobody pays retail anymore, right?)

I should also note that while vertical axis wind-turbines may be the wave of the future for small-wind (especially in urban settings), there are lots of companies making big claims about their products right now, and I am not comfortable with my own knowledge of the products to include them in this listing.

By Tim Hurst

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