Why no residential wind turbines?

It seems to me that it would be easy enough to design and install a scaled down wind turbine that would provide at least some energy to your house, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one.

What’s the problem with them?

Nothing, you are not looking in the right spot. Here in Coastal CT we have several people using them and even a wind coop that helps people get the supplies with relative ease. I love the one on the end of the dock next to ours. It supplies some power to the house, but mostly just charges his boat and powers his boat house light. The thing is always whipping round and round.

My house had one, back in the '30s. Just a regular windmill with a car generator on it. It’d charge a couple of car batteries for a few 12V bulbs at night. If there wasn’t enough wind, my dad would climb the tower to start a Maytag washing machine motor to charge the batteries for a while. This was back when my grandparents lived here and he was a kid, this area didn’t get on the electricity grid until after WWII.

There are a number of issues preventing wide-spread adoption of residential wind power:

  1. Turbines big enough to power a typical house are both physically large and expensive.
  2. To maximize power generation, they require very tall towers, upwards of 100’, which is usually frowned upon in most neighborhoods.
  3. Much of the country has poor wind resources. There are a few areas with good wind, and you will see turbines there, especially in the countryside.
    4)They don’t provide continuous power, requiring expensive battery backups, or grid-tie.

Even with all these problems, wind is the most cost-effective off-grid solution in areas with good wind.

We’ve got them here in our leading DIY store. They’re too expensive for most people to buy, and you have to get planning permission from the local council to install them, but they’re certainly available.

There’ve been a couple houses around here that have had them for years, but recently great bunches of them are starting to popup all over the place. They’re mounted on a pole, generally stuck in a field and standing just taller than the trees, with a three-bladed propeller of I’d guess 8 or so feet in diameter attached to a generator and a fin to rotate it as the wind changes.

No clue how much they cost or what kind of power they generate, but their popularity certainly is soaring.

Northern Tool sells them in the Midwestern U.S… They carry Southwest Windpower brand turbines. So they are available, but you have to be in an area that gets adequate wind and that allows tall towers to be built.

Yeah, windmill operated chargers used to be very common. Many rural houses had DC low voltage light bulbs and battery powered radios. I even remember a few from the 1940s.

One popular wind turbine: http://www.emarineinc.com/products/wind_generators/skystream.html

What did the washing machine motor run off of? Petrol, diesel, propane…?

Remember tall towers need tall guy lines, too, and so your neighbors might object to planting 6 foot stakes in their yards and risking decapitation in order to mow the yard.

Gasoline, knowing them it was probably drip (hydrocarbon condensate, like “white gas”. It was plentiful around here for little of nothing for years). Here’s a similar engine, just a different generator.

Popular Mechanics just had an article about a vertical wind turbine that Jay Leno put on top of his garage. I’m nut sure, but his garage might be using more power than a typical household. I’m sue it was expensive. He said he could sell energy back to the grid though.

Bloody NIMBY’s.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution just ran an article about a family in the city wanting to put up a wind turbine for their house (in the Grant Park neighborhood); as suggested above, the neighbors aren’t happy about it (they say it “violates the historic fabric of this neighborhood”) and may go to court over the matter.

Great article. It’s a vertical turbine, which offers several advantages. The print version says that the whole things is just 30 feet high. The online version is much shorter, but includes video.

I’d love to install something like this on my house - it’s an end-terrace town house (three storeys) and we have plenty of wind most of the time. I’m pretty sure I’d never get planning permission for it though.

How is safety of the linemen ensured? If you’re spinning your meter backwards, wouldn’t this energize lines without the knowledge of the utility?

Probably a means similar to backup generators, e.g., automatic transfer switch.

I investigated a residential system recently, asking a friend (John Hippensteel) who builds and installs wind generators and solar power arrays to give me a rough estimate of the cost. It was astronomical, even tho I have only modest electrical needs and a fairly decent wind location.

And that was even without a big backup system of batteries, etc., as I could easily use the grid for windless days.

Small generators don’t have the economy of scale. John pointed out that the commercial systems are getting bigger all the time. The power they produce gets cheaper per KWH the larger the blades and the taller the tower.