Wind & Solar FAQ
Wind & Solar FAQ
Read our Most Frequently Asked Questions on Wind and Solar Energy.
Wind & Solar FAQ
Most Frequently Asked Wind Questions:
***Financing and Leasing options Now Available Canada and the US for all project sizes…please inquire***
Q1. What size turbine do I need for my home?
Homes use on average approximately 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year (about 830 kWh per month), though this amount can vary considerably. An air-conditioned home in a hot climate like Arizona for example, will use more electricity than a non-air-conditioned home in Vermont. Depending upon the average wind speed in the area, a wind turbine rated in the range of 2 to 10 kilowatts (or 2000 – 10,000 watts) would be required to either reduce or meet the needs of your energy consumption.
Q2. What types of things do you look for when determining what size wind system I will need?
- Square footage of the structure.
- What is your average monthly energy KW (kilowatt-hour) use? (Refer to total billed amount in KWh’s shown on your utility bill).
- Amount you pay per kilowatt hour to your utility?
- Heating type and energy source?
- Cooking type/method?
- Clothes drying method?
- Hot water energy type and source?
- Types of lighting: How many lights, Wattage each, type and hours of use each day?
- Appliances, wattage and hours of use each day?
- Topography of the general area (flat, hilly)?
- Height and direction of surrounding trees from wind site?
- Buildings that may interfere with wind exposure?
- The average wind speed in your area? (Use wind map on our “How To” page)
- Description of your average wind? (Typical low wind area or prone to High winds?)
- Typical seasonal weather conditions.
- Do you desire back-up power for essential circuits only, or the whole building?
- Do you wish to have an independent system?
- Or one that feeds to the utility when loads are minimum?
- Is your interest environmental or economic or both?
Q3. How much will a small wind turbine system cost?
A general rule of thumb is that a small off-grid wind turbine system can cost from $2,000 to $3,500 per KW to purchase. An on-grid system is usually twice this cost due to more expensive components such as the on-grid inverter, etc.
Q4. How does the cost of a small wind system compare to that of other technologies?
Small wind turbines (ranging in size from 250 watts to 100 kW) are often the least expensive source of power for remote sites that are not connected to the utility system.
A study by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment found wind to be cheaper for meeting remote loads (loads not connected to a utility system) than diesel generators, solar photovoltaics, or utility transmission line extensions.
Solar Hot water heating has the quickest payback for smaller project that include in-floor heat.
Q5. Will a small wind system save me money?
A wind turbine typically lowers a household electricity bill by 50% to 90%. It is not uncommon for wind turbine owners with total-electric homes to have monthly utility bills of only $8 to $15 for nine months of the year. Depending on the turbine size and the installation site, a turbine could supply more than 100% of a home’s energy needs, sometimes resulting in a “negative” electric utility bill.
The amount of money a small wind turbine saves you in the long run will depend upon its cost, the amount of electricity you use, the average wind speed at your site, and other factors.
Since energy conservation is usually less expensive than energy production, making your house or farm more energy-efficient first will likely reduce the amount of investment in a wind system to meet your needs. Most wind system purchasers have done all the reasonable efficiency measures first.
Q6. How do wind turbines perform as an investment?
The wind system will usually recoup its investment through utility savings within 9 to 15 years and after that the electricity it produces will be virtually free. Smaller wind systems can pay for themselves in as little as 5-8 years.
Over the long term, a wind turbine is a good investment because a well-sited wind system increases property value, similar to any other home improvement. Many people buy wind systems in preparation for their retirement because they don’t want to be subject to unpredictable increases in utility rates. It is very important to note have the right turbine for your area as weather can shorten the turbine life span.
Q7. Don’t I have to take wind measurements for a year or more?
For most residential systems the cost of taking wind measurements is not justified. Wind resource data such as the Canadian Wind Atlas and the United States Wind Map are usually sufficient enough for an experienced evaluator to predict wind turbine performance. There are also other inexpensive or free resources available to the public that can help you evaluate your wind resource.
Q8. How reliable are wind turbines? Will I have to perform much maintenance?
Most small turbines have only 2-3 moving parts and do not require any regular maintenance. They are designed for a long life (20 – 30 years) and operate completely automatically. However you should always have a manual brake option or means to protect your turbine in servere weather. All warranties are void should damage occur in these conditions.
Q9. Will a small wind turbine damage neighboring property values?
With thousands of small wind turbines installed today across Canada and the U.S., there is no evidence to support this claim, and several surveys and other information sources indicate that property values in fact tend to increase.
Q10. Will my local government allow me to install a wind turbine?
A wind turbine is a tall structure that normally requires a building permit. Zoning regulations often limit the height, placement, and other characteristics of “appurtenant” structures, so a conditional (special) use permit or variance may be necessary.
It’s usually best to let your neighbors know about your installation ahead of time. Be prepared to answer questions and clear up common misconceptions with well-documented facts about small wind turbines.
Q11. Will I have to change any of the wiring in my house?
No. A wind turbine can easily be installed at virtually any existing home without the need to change any wiring or appliances. In most cases, the utility will install a second utility meter to measure how much surplus electricity it is receiving from the turbine owner.
Q12. Do Wind Turbines make noise or interfere with TV receptions?
Small wind turbines do make some noise, but not enough to be found objectionable by most people. A typical residential wind system makes less noise than the average washing machine. Wind turbines do not interfere with TV reception.
Does a wind machine make noise?
Q13. Will it help the environment if I install a wind turbine at my home?
Yes. Wind turbines produce no pollution and by using wind power you will be offsetting pollution that would have been generated by your utility company. Over its life, a small residential wind turbine can offset approximately 1.2 tons of air pollutants and 200 tons of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and other gases which cause climate change).
Most Frequently Asked Solar Questions:
Q1. If the grid goes down, I stay up, right?
No, if you have a grid-tied system, that means that the solar system is tied into your utility company, and that when you produce more power than you use, you send (sell) them (your utility) power, and when you use more power then you produce, you buy power. If the grid power goes out, so do you.
Q2. So if I don’t want my power to go out, can I get battery backups?
Typically this can be a very costly option. Battery technology is weak at this point in history, and it’s expensive. On top of that, hooking batteries to your solar system is a HUGE maintenance issue. Solar power itself has no moving parts, it RARELY breaks… Batteries on the other hand, wow. If you have lead acid batteries you have to ventilate them, not to mention replace the water as it gets eaten up. If you have gel-cells you have to replace them every 5 years. All in all, just get a generator and plug it in if the power goes out. It doesn’t happen often.
Q3. Solar power doesn’t work when it’s cloudy, right?
Yes, it does. Ambient light and lots of UV light still get through. Figure between 10-50% effectiveness depending on how terrible the weather is.
Q4. How is it attached to my roof?
In different ways… but solar panels can catch wind like sails, and if they’re not attached to your beams, they can rip your roof off. They are usually attached securely to the rafters so they are a part of the infrastructure of your house. If you’re ever talking to a salesperson make sure you ask about they’re mounting practices.
Q5. At the end of the year if I produce more than I use, do I get a check from the utility?
It depends on where you live. Check your state/provincial resource page on our Grants/Rebates page to find out the net-metering laws in your state or province. In most states/provinces, you can use your surplus power sent to the grid as a credit for other months…. But at the end of the year, if you have produced more than you used in total, no, you don’t get a check, and your utility thanks you for the free power. So you want to optimize but not go over.
However, if the customer owned power generator signs a Power Purchase Agreement with their local utility company and are planning on producing excess energy to flow back to the utility in order to export energy, then some utility companies do remit a payment on the annual anniversary for any surplus energy generated. The amount paid is based on the rate per kilowatt (eg; .06/KWh) that was stated in the Power Purchase Agreement for any excess energy sold back to the grid.
Q6. Is there anything I can apply for to get this subsidized?
Most definitely. Check our Grants & Rebates page to see the kind of free money that is available in your state or province. Your installer should also be aware of all credits/ rebates/ incentives for solar power available in your area.
Q7. Do I need to have my house rewired?
No. The solar system has two parts: the panels and the inverter. The panels take photons and turn then into direct current (DC) electricity. Conduit is run from the panels to the other of the two parts, the inverter, which turns that direct current into alternating current (AC) which is the kind of power your appliances use. This inverter is connected to your main breaker and also the utility’s meter, so that you may draw power from the utility when you are not producing enough from your solar, and sell power to the utility when you are producing more than you are using. All the wiring in your house stays the same.
Q8. Isn’t solar power getting cheaper? Shouldn’t I wait?
For starters, and contrary to EVERYTHING you read in the media, solar power is getting more expensive. Transportation costs, the energy required for production, increased demand, and suppliers shipping overseas to places like Germany and Spain are only some of the factors behind why solar power is getting more expensive. In some states, the Solar Initiative credits are decreasing, and the Federal tax credit are ending after 2008. Couple this with increasing product cost and solar will not be cheaper than it is RIGHT NOW for a long time.
Q9. What about thin film and nano-solar?
The new “fancy” technologies get a lot of media buzz because they are new, and the reporters don’t have all the facts, which tends to mislead the public. Thin film is extremely cost effective – IF YOU HAVE A GIANT WAREHOUSE. Almost all non-PV technology is effective only for large surface areas. This doesn’t work with residential… If you own a house or a small business, PhotoVoltaics are the ONLY REAL SOLAR SOLUTION and it’s going to be that way for years and years.
Q10. Do Solar Panels require alot of cleaning?
No, you just need to hose them off once or twice a year and get any large items like bird poop or twigs off of them.
Q11. What size PV system do I need?
System size depends on many factors, including available roof space, how much electricity your household uses and how much you want to generate. An average household uses about 9,500 – 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh)of electricity annually. Taking advantage of Time-of-Use Net Metering, a 3.6 – 4.0 kilowatt (kW)PV system might be all that’s needed to reduce this average electric bill to about $7 per month. PV retailers can help determine the best size to meet your needs based on your shading, roof orientation, usage patterns and location.
Q12. How much does a PV system cost?
Cost depends on size, type of system and other factors. Average cost (after rebates and tax credits) is $6,000-$8,000 per kilowatt. A 2-kilowatt (kW) system may cost from $13,500-$16,000 installed, after rebates and credits. Battery backup can add $3,000 to $6,000 or more.
Q13. How is a PV system installed?
PV systems can be mounted on a roof or trellis or even on the ground. They require a south-facing location with good sun exposure and no shading from trees or buildings. A device called an inverter converts the DC electricity produced by PV cells into the AC electricity required by our homes. The inverter is installed in a garage or utility room, or in an outside cabinet.
Q14. What is the difference between off-grid and grid-connected systems?
Off-grid PV systems aren’t connected to the local utility’s electricity network. They’re more common in remote locations where it’s expensive to hook up to the utility grid. Grid-connected systems are more common in cities and suburbs. Grid-connected systems feed excess electricity you produce into the grid and draw electricity from the utility when the sun isn’t shining or when you need more energy than you’re creating.
Q15. How can I pay for my system faster for my Home?
You can apply for a business number and calculate your earnings from you system to use for taxible income then you can write off over 3 years the whole system
towards all you taxes paid. This works best for the person that works a regular job and has with held taxes.
Q16. If I lease my equipment can I write off the whole amount of the payments?
Yes, If you apply for a business number you can Lease your equipment and have the payment be 100% deductible on your income tax. At the end of the term the leasing company will sell you your system back for $1. This way you can the whole system interest and all paid for with your with held tax.