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Wind energy may appear like a no brainer for renewable energy production in many places. Is it always windy at your location? Doesn't it seem like it would an easy thing to harness all that free potential energy?

Q: The wind is always blowing at my house, should I go with wind energy?

A: Though the winds may blow, it may not be consistent enough for energy production. Sound crazy? Wind speeds for reliable energy production have to blow consistently (average of 15 mph), AND keep sustained speeds at the right height. You can't put a turbine right outside your front door and expect great performance, and variations occur once you get up to 20, 30, 40 feet in the air. Tower height is a major contributor to wind system performance. Putting a large turbine on a short tower is the equivalent to putting a solar panel in the shade: it just doesn't make sense.

Q: Does a bigger turbine equal more power?

A: Sort of. A larger turbine may produce more watts but a properly sized turbine for your conditions will produce many more watt-hours. Also, not all turbines are created equally. Some excel in light winds while others are created for higher mile per hour winds.

Q: I have an old windmill; can I use that to make my own energy?

A: Not if you want to sell power back to the grid. Grid connected wind energy systems must be UL listed and not home built. But if you are looking to pump water or charge batteries under the radar, your old windmill might just come in handy.

Q: What's the deal with vertical access wind turbines?

A: Vertical access turbines take a different approach. They rely on a vertical axis and are marketed as a safer option for animals because of the lack of defined blades. Noise pollution can be reduced and they can also operate in more fluctuating gusts. This technology is experimental at the present.

Q: How do I know if my site is windy enough for wind energy?

A: You really need to monitor wind speeds at your chosen tower height for a sustained period of time. Raising a pole with a wind monitor and collecting data for a year can accomplish this. For an ideal site, wind energy can be extremely cost effective but only if the right conditions exist. Without enough site data you risk buying a really expensive piece of yard art. Plus, marauders can find you from a distance.