Windmills are an ingenious mechanical invention that convert wind power into rotational energy. Historically, windmills have been utilized to mill grain, supply power for both industrial and agricultural purposes, generate electricity and pump water. In fact, windmill power dates as far back in recorded history as first century AD. Over the years, windmill design has evolved from horizontal windmills, to vertical windmills and into the massive wind turbines that we see today. Traditional windmill power generation has been refined over the years so that windmill power for homes is now a reality. Windmills have a unique ability to harness wind power effectively for many purposes. Wind, being a form of solar energy occurs when the atmosphere heats up irregularly and travels across the Earth’s surface flowing in patterns and speeds contingent upon the rotation of the planet. Water, agriculture and terrain anomalies influence how strong wind flow becomes. Windmill power, much like the motion-specific energy observed in activities like sailing and flying kites, is both powerful and very useful. Windmill power for homes allow consumers to generate economically beneficial and environmentally friendly power in residential areas, on farms and even for small businesses. Presently, wind turbines may even be purchased, rather affordably, at home-improvement stores. Home windmills can be electricity producing, yet at the very least lower utility bills considerably by consistently reducing kW consumption.
Windmill power is used today, primarily for the production of electricity. Windmills for electricity produce a nearly unlimited power supply, and home windmills are a perfect supplement for off-grid power. Meaning, for consumers that are not connected to a power company, personal windmill power can provide a great power source. In some areas, windmill power is relied upon exclusively for power production. Depending on the size of the wind farm, electricity can effectively be generated for an entire grid. In some instances, home windmills can even be used to sell power back to the power company for a profit. Windmill power generation can provide safe, easy and above all, a low-maintenance energy source. As a rule, a windmill generator requires adequate wind speeds of at least 10 – 12 mph. Windmill power is also a clean energy source, and one of the very few, truly clean energy sources at that. Much like solar power, windmill power generation is produced from renewable energy (wind cannot be depleted when used) and generates little to no pollution as well. Windmills, further, do not leave behind toxicity, and can allow nature to recover in the event they are moved. Smaller home windmills duplicate the benefits of larger turbines and can either be connected to the electricity grid or used for backup power purposes only.
Windmill power generation facts
Interestingly, wind energy makes up just under 6% of U.S. electric generating capacity. While windmills for electricity continue to be rapidly increasing, windmills have been in use since their ancient development in China and Persia. As it stands presently, a single windmill power generation can effectively power 500 homes, and modern wind turbines produce up to fifteen times more electricity than those from the ’90’s. Primarily manufactured by the Mitsubishi corporation, these windmills are on track to achieve responsibility for delivering 12% of worldwide energy demand by 2020.
Types of windmills
The earliest windmills were horizontal access windmills. However, the horizontal style windmills of present-day differ due to blade style development. Horizontal windmill power for homes are useful because they turn at lower wind speeds and are easily mounted on rooftops or in a yard. In addition to horizontal access windmills, other types of windmills include modern wind turbines, vertical access windmills and aerial styles. When it comes to windmill power for homes, there is great interest in vertical access windmills because these styles work by allowing air to pass over the two sided windmill in a lift-maneuver, similar to the way an egg beater operates. Vertical access windmills are still being refined and developed however, they demonstrate amazing potential towards reaching near 60% efficiency. Both windmills and wind turbines turn wind energy into cost-effective, useful power. Windmills channel wind into mechanical energy and turbine styles produce electricity. Wind turbines are designed to have either one, two or three blades and may be used, respectively in areas with varying speeds of wind gusts. Windmills and turbines are composed of:
- A base and tower
- Gear Box; and
The earliest windmills were used to grind grain between stones in order to produce flour, which have since developed into the giants we see today producing electricity power. In addition to these “post” mill designs, there are also smock mills and tower mills throughout the world. A horizontal windmill, smock mills have a fixed, six to eight sided wooden body that houses mill machinery, which differ from cylindrical, vertical style, tower mills. Tower mills utilize a wooded cap-roof that rotates in order to allow the mills more-than-four sails to capture wind. Tower mills feature the most parts, including:
- Arm, or “stock”
- Sail, windshaft and cap
- Floor, gallery (deck) and tower
- Frame, fantail and hemlath; and
- Sailbar with sail cloth
How windmill styles are different
Windmill styles differ in both the structure in which they are built, in addition to how they ultimately function. Windmills are used to harness wind and turn it into mechanical energy as opposed to wind turbine styles, for example, which work in reverse. Turbine styles use motion to create electrical current in order to be effectively used as a windmill generator. The term generator simply means a device, gear or machine used for producing or converting, in this case, wind (mechanical energy) into electricity.
How much electricity windmills produce for home use
Wind powering a home by utilizing a windmill generator allows consumers to generate their own environmentally friendly green energy. Residential-size windmills for electricity produce pollutant-free, clean energy via simple technology. Depending on the type of windmill generator system, either on-grid or off-grid, battery storage is needed to store power produced. Average sized U.S. homes require 5-kW windmill generator to power a home. Windmill power for homes costs as little as $4,000 for very small, off-grid turbines, and generally around $30,000 for average sized windmills for electricity. However, price range can also become substantially more expensive from there, depending on size and installation expenses.
There are as many benefits and advantages involved with using home windmills as there are considerations. The benefits of using residential windmills for electricity are:
- Wind is a domestic, unlimited source of energy
- Results in cost-effective power
- Can be grid-connected for uninterrupted power
- Can be easily purchased; and
- Successfully supplements or entirely replaces rising energy costs
Harnessing an unlimited, direct, clean source of energy is appealing for not having to fear depletion. Investing in wind energy is meaningful because it will not only result in cost-effective power, it will be ever-lasting as well. Enjoying the best of both worlds, utilizing exclusive wind power when available, but being able to also rely on the grid is another tremendous benefit and way to effectively save on energy expenses. Alternatively, challenges associated with windmills for homes include:
- Return on investment depends on many factors
- Can be initially expensive to install
- Typically require an acre or more of land
- Routine, professional maintenance required; and
- Typically range from 30 – 140 feet tall
The payback period for wind generated power is calculated by noting installation and maintenance costs, equipment lifespan and any tax or other incentive credits applicable. As an example, estimating energy output in kilowatts and calculating mathematically against the cost of electricity in addition to costs and credits will provide the duration of time it will take to enjoy monetary return. Additionally, depending on the requisite size of windmill, more money up-front may be needed. Maintenance and maintenance costs can be accurately measured at 1% – 3% the cost of the windmill. Installing and maintaining a home windmill system is accomplished with a little planning and enlisting the help of a windmill power system dealer or manufacturer to address issues associated with wind system installation. Those interested in installing a home wind system must determine zoning requirements, available incentives and of course the amount of wind needed to be successful. In addition to these considerations, it will also be critical to estimate turbine and tower size, identify the optimal siting-site for the windmill and finally decide whether or not to connect “on-grid”. Altogether speaking, the costs for a professional windmill power system can safely be quoted at $15,000. The amount of electricity put out by this windmill power system will satisfy 50% to 100% of a modern, energy efficient home. Initially, home owners will enjoy utility savings of approximately $105 per month, with the system paying for itself in full in as little as five years. On top of that, saving money by installing a windmill is also gained through considerably generous, personal tax incentives. The Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit provides home owners with a 30% tax credit, with no maximum credit for windmill systems installed after 2008, but prior to 2016. Moreover, the home enjoying the wind energy system does not even have to be the taxpayer’s primary place of residence. A quick online search for home windmill manufactures results in over 200 indexed companies providing approximately 375 different styles of both horizontal axis and vertical axis small wind turbines available for purchase. Small wind turbines are designated because their rotor area is less than 200 square meters, and results in the maximum levels of power output. The American Wind Energy Association, AWEA provides wind turbine ratings respective to power output. Windmills are not only great for individuals, they are important to diminishing pollution and benefiting both economics and our environment.