What's The Deal With Wind Turbines?

Wind turbine for living off-grid

We get a lot of people asking whether a wind turbine is right for them, and whether it can produce enough power to support off-grid living (I’ll be talking about domestic scale turbines here, as utility-scale turbines are a whole other ball game.)

Now I might seem slightly negative about the poor old wind turbine, but I want to assure you that we actually do love them, just as long as they’re of sufficient quality and positioned in the right location!

How would it perform?

Well this depends on your local site wind conditions. In order to compete with a solar PV array (kWh/KW and kWh/$), your wind turbine will need to tap into 8-9 meter-per-second average wind speeds – clean, non-choppy winds. Achieving such conditions requires a turbine’s blades to sit at least 10m above the tallest obstacles within a radius of 150m. We all might remember the windy periods, but not many properties will truly experience average wind speeds of this consistency and magnitude.

Installing an anemometer (wind speed & direction monitor) in the location you think could be suitable is the only reliable method of determining these facts. This will give you a good idea of whether a turbine will be worth your investment.
The nature of how a wind turbine functions makes it difficult to estimate what it will produce on a regular basis. For this reason, we would only include a turbine in a standalone power system after we have gathered a considerable amount of site-specific and seasonal data. Your battery system and lifestyle are simply too important to risk not having enough energy available.

Can a wind turbine alone let me live off grid?

Well, the short answer is “most likely not”. The wind speeds required rarely have the routine reliability day-in-day-out that the sun has, at the sort of sites and heights considered here. However, a wind turbine may be a good supplement to a solar system if the conditions are right.

Why is it so difficult to find someone who will sell me a turbine in Australia?

In my opinion, the fall in solar prices together with its’ low maintenance requirements have seen the demise of the domestic-scale wind turbine in Australia. The fall in turbine demand has meant that suppliers have stopped stocking them, and reputable manufacturers have moved their focus away from exporting to Australia.

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