Planning a Small Scale Project

Small scale considered about 20MW capacity or less.

Project Motivation

The motivation behind the project is an important question to ask yourself before you begin purchasing the materials for the project. Whether your motivations stem from a passion for the environment and the desire for clean renewable energy, you like the aesthetics of wind turbines, you want to make money, or you want to reduce your electricity bills, these motivations should be know because they will help to determine the size and scale of your project.

Some questions to consider:

  • What will the electricity generated be used for?
  • Do I want to reduce my electricity bills, or do I want to sell the electricity to a utility?
  • What is the budget for the project?

Determine if You Have Adequate Wind Resources

A wind resource is usually considered economical if there is an average wind speed of between 13 to 15 miles per hour (mph), or greater than 4 m/s. Also, consider that the average small-scale turbine will be between 15 to 30 meters in height. For the wind resources at a specific location access the Wind Explorer website.

Examples Where a Wind Project Is Practical

  • If the property has good wind resources
  • If the property contains at least 1 acre of land, especially if it is in a rural area
  • If the local zoning codes allow the installation of wind turbines
  • If the average electricity bills are $150/month or greater
  • If your property is off of the grid with little access to transmission lines

Things to Research

  • Some zoning ordinances place restrictions on the type of structure that can be constructed in residential areas.
  • Most zoning ordinances have a height restriction of 35 feet.
  • The noise levels emitted from most small-scale residential turbines is around 52-55 decibels, which is equivalent to the noise generated by your refrigerator. Noise should not be an issue.

Turbine Size

This primarily depends on the primary motivations and rationale behind the wind project is, and what functions the owner hopes the turbine will achieve, and the budget available for the project.

  • Microturbines (20 to 500 Watts)- can be used for charging batteries for power tools, small vehicles, and sailboats.
  • Small scale turbines (500 Watts to 100 Kilowatts (KW))- can be used as electricity for houses.
  • 1 to 10 KW turbines can be used to pump water.

General Estimate on Cost

Estimates range between $1,000 to 3,000 per KW of installed capacity. So a 10 KW system should cost between $10,000 to 30,000. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) puts the estimate for a 10KW residential system at around $32,000.

How to Calculate the Payback Period

The payback period is the amount of time after the turbine has been installed and when the benefits or revenue streams from the electricity produced are equal to the initial capital cost of the project. Basically how long will it take me to recoup my initial investment in the turbine?

For help doing this by yourself refer to the link below which contains an Excel spreadsheet published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Small Wind Incentives for New York

  • New York Energy $mart End-Use Wind Incentive Program: Provides cash incentives for the installation of wind generation if the produced power offsets electricity produced from a utility. The system must be purchased through an eligible installer. Incentives based on a percentage of installed costs, ranging from 50% of the cost for 500W to 10KW systems, 15% for systems greater than 80KW not to exceed $100,000.
  • New York Energy $mart Loan Program: Provides reduced interest loans (4% reduction in market rates) through participating lenders to finance the construction of renewable energy projects.
  • NYSERDA Incentive for Small Wind: 
    • For 10,000 kwh of annual energy output, the incentive is $3.50/kwh.
    • If greater than 10,000 kwh but less than 125,000 kwh, the incentive is $35,000 plus $1/kwh above 10,000 kwh.
    • If greater than 125,000 kwh, $150,000 plus $0.30/kwh above 125,000 kwh.
    • The incentive will not exceed 50% of the capital cost of the project
    • Max capacity is 2 MW per customer
    • Maximum $400,000 per site/customer
  • Solar and Wind Energy Systems Exemption: Property owners are eligible for a real property tax exemption for wind energy systems in the state. Applies to systems existing prior to July 1, 1988, or to systems constructed after January 1, 1991, and before January 1, 2006.

Turbine Size for a House

Average 3 bedroom, 1500 square feet uses about 10,000 to 15,000 Kilowatts Per Hour (kwh) of electricity per year. Assuming that you have a 30% efficient system, and have enough wind resource of 12 mph to produce electricity for 10 hours a day, one would need at least a 14 KW wind turbine.


Compiled by Greg Gronski, Alternative Energy Research Assistant

Information is taken from:

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