Wind energy is an alternative to fossil fuel energy that converts wind to electricity. A turbine sits atop a tall tower, the blades whirl in the wind, and a rotor traps the energy from the twirling blades and uses it to power the generator. In this fashion, electricity is generated by using the wind as its fuel. When one of these turbines is used to provide some or all of a home’s electricity, that is referred to as residential wind energy. There are three types of residential wind energy systems: grid-tied systems, off-grid systems and wind farm systems.
Wind is seasonally strongest during the fall and winter months, with lower average wind speeds during the summer. During times of low output, a secondary energy source might be required to power the residence. A home with a turbine that also is tied to the power grid is referred to as a grid-tied system. The turbine supplies some or most of the electrical need, with the power grid supplying the deficit.
In some regions, the utility company purchases the overabundance of electricity generated during peak wind seasons from the homeowner. Large batteries might be used to store power for windless day, but they are not required. Being tied into the power grid insures that power always will be available. Energy use is not limited, as it often is with an off-grid system.
An off-grid system for residential wind energy is not tied to the power grid. This standalone system uses a bank of batteries to store electricity for periods of low wind speed. This is the way countless farms were powered in the 1930s.
Fossil fuel-powered generators might be used in an off-grid system to provide backup power when the batteries are depleted. Electricity is used carefully, because the power sources are finite. This system generally is used in remote locations where running power from the grid is unavailable or is too cost prohibitive. It allows people to live in remote locations and still enjoy the benefits and convenience of electricity.
Wind farms make use of many turbines. These turbines work in concert to provide electricity in greater quantities than a single turbine can. The land between these turbines often is used for agricultural purposes such as raising crops or grazing livestock. Some wind farms are located offshore to take advantage of stronger wind and to preserve valuable land. Power from wind farms is channeled to a specific community for residential wind energy or back to the grid.