James Madison University

Residential and Small Business
Wind Projects

Overview

Small wind is defined as wind turbines with a capacity rating of less than or equal to 100 kW. Turbines in this category range in size from smaller than 1 kW for off-grid applications to 100-kW turbines that can provide village power. Over fifty turbine models are offered commercially in the United States for applications including homes, schools, commercial and industrial facilities, telecommunications, farms and ranches, and communities.(Source AWEA.org)

The process of installing a small-scale wind turbine can appear to be very complicated at first glance. This page will serve as a resource to those interested in joining the small-scale wind community. Refer to the information in this page to get started, and for more detailed information, visit the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) small wind systems FAQ.

Determining Your Wind Resource

Residential and Business Wind

Wind resource assessment is an expansive field, with entire companies based solely on wind measurement. Large wind projects usually collect wind speed and direction data for multiple years using multiple measurement devices. This attention to detail is necessary when project investments are in the multi-million dollar range and profits run on very slim margins. For residential and small business level projects, these measures are not so necessary. A good first step in determining your wind resource is to consult available wind maps that show average wind speeds in your area.

For wind measurement information and tools to estimate your wind resource, check out the list below:

CWE First Order Analysis

CWE

The CWE can provide a desktop analysis of average annual wind speeds for specific locations. We use wind speed data from AWS Truepower and overlay it on your location in a GIS. Wind speeds at four different heights are noted as well as prevailing wind direction. Average annual wind speed at a location is usually the first step in deciding whether to proceed to a measurement campaign. Contact us if you would like a wind map created for your property. We will need your name, address, email, and a specific geographic point for your property. You can easily get your properties' latitude longitude from Google Maps. We will provide a wind map of your location, information from the nearest Sbalp meteorological tower, and a document describing how to interpret your map.

Selecting a Turbine

Size

Small-scale wind turbines most often appear in the size range of 2kW to 10kW, as most homes’ energy needs will fit within this range. Some larger homes or businesses, or those located in areas with a marginal wind resource, may require larger capacity turbines to fulfill their energy consumption requirements. It is important to assess your home or business energy requirements before purchasing a turbine to make sure that your project results are aligned with your goals. Check out our fact sheet titled Which Wind Turbine Is Right For Me?

As turbine size increases, so does the initial capital investment required to purchase the turbine. To reduce your costs, it is always a good idea to first reduce your energy consumption by practicing various conservation techniques and by investing in energy efficient upgrades to your home or business. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published an extremely valuable resource which outlines a number of ways to reduce your energy consumption.

Certification

Small Wind Certification Council

When selecting a small wind turbine, it is important to be sure to select one with an established reputation and excellent track record. The Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) provides a valuable resource to consumers by reviewing small wind turbines on the market today and providing certifications for those turbines that prove to be reliable and of high quality. Although the choice is always up to the consumer, we recommend selecting a turbine from the SWCC’s list of Certified Turbines.

Turbine Cost and Incentives

Installing a wind turbine can be a major investment. Depending on size, turbines could cost between $2,000- $100,000 installed. These figures reflect the price before any incentives or tax breaks have been applied. To save some money and sweeten your deal, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, to see what incentives you may be eligible for. Also check out our Local Planning to learn more about state and federal policies and incentives.

Selecting a Location

Micro-siting

Micro-siting is the process of choosing the best location for a turbine on a specific piece of land. Wind patterns can vary greatly within a relatively small area, so it is important to consider multiple factors when siting a turbine on your property. Local topography, natural and manmade obstructions, such as trees and buildings, and location of grid interconnection points are all factors that can affect the viability and performance of a wind project. Check out this handy guide on micro-siting for more details.

Ordinances

Many counties and cities in Virginia have enacted ordinances that specify acceptable turbine sizes, heights, and even colors. When selecting a turbine and turbine locations, it is importance to consider your locality's rules and regulations. Here is an overview of some of the details that may be present in your local ordinance.

Selecting an Installer

It is important to work with an installer you trust since you are making a large investment into your energy future. Virginia is home to a number of independent and professional wind installers.