Residential Wind Power, How does it work?
The kinetic (moving energy) from the winds is harnessed by a device called a turbine. This turbine
consists of airfoils (blades) that capture the energy of the wind and use it to turn the shaft of an
alternator (like you have on a car only bigger). There are two basic types of blades (drag style and
lifting style). We all have seen pictures of old fashioned windmills with the large flat blades which
are an example of the drag style of airfoil. Lifting style blades are twisted instead of flat and
resemble the propellor of a small airplane.
A turbine is classified as to whether it is designed to be installed with the rotor in a horozontal or
vertical positon and whether the wind strikes the blades or the tower first. A vertical turbine
typically requires less land for it's installation and is a better option for the more urban areas of
the world. An upwind turbine is designed for the wind to impact the airfoils before it does the tower.
These units normally have a tail on the turbine which is required to keep the unit pointed into the
wind. A downwind turbine does not require a tail as the wind acting on the blades tends to keep it
These turbine systems would be damaged if they were to be allowed to turn at excessive speeds.
Therefore, units must have automatic overspeed governing systems. Some systems use mechanical type brake
system where the blades fold back against the turbine body at a predetermined wind speed. This is
commonly called "furling". Other systems use electrical systems for breaking where torque is produced to
counteract a part of the wind's force. The latest innovation is called variable pitch technology. This
is where the angle of the blades relative to the wind striking them is changed to lower the speed.
The output electricity from the alternator is sent to a controller which conditions it for use in the
home. The use of residential wind power systems requires the home to either remain tied to the utility
grid or store electricity in a battery for use when the wind does not blow sufficiently.
When the home is tied to the grid, the excess electricity that is produced by the residential wind
power system can be sold to the utility company to lower and sometimes even eliminate your electric
bill. During times with not enough wind, the home is supplied power from the utility company.
If you are considering a residential wind power system, you can check out our wind system
ratings page to compare the brands. You could spend hour upon hour sorting through the different
brands and the various claims of the manufacturers. But, we have already done the research and put the
results in a format that is easy to understand.