Alternative Energy Sources For The Homestead Part Two – Wind Power

wind power off grid

This is part two of a four-part series on alternative energy sources for the homestead – you can read part one Solar Power here.

Wind can provide a great source of energy for you and your family when you are living off-grid or for a backup power source.

By choosing a life off-grid, you are choosing a life of independence, a life of self-sufficiency. It is a life where you use the resources the Earth provides and only take what you need. The grocery store doesn’t provide your food, your backyard does.

But it’s not the easiest life. It’s much simpler to just flip a light switch and not even think about where that electricity came from. Because for most people, that electricity just came from some power company that you are vaguely familiar with.

But when you live off-grid, you harvest the energy.

One of your options for energy when you live off-grid is wind power. This invisible mass of air that we often complain about can provide energy to your home. And you can get started yourself. But what does that entail?

What is the off-grid wind system?

There are four different types of wind power systems. One is the off-grid wind power system that uses batteries to store power that is produced by the wind generator for later use.

Another common system is wind-electric water pumping. This couples a wind generator to an electric pump.

Do you have a good location?

As you would imagine, wind power systems take space. Particularly if you want a tall tower that is more efficient. If you need, or just want, something smaller the GOWE small wind generator is an excellent option and good place to start. This turbine might be small but has a high-efficiency motor and can produce up to 600 watts and is available in either a 12 or 24 volt. So I highly recommend this if you are conscious of the size and or on a budget.

Unfortunately, you may also face legal hurdles in some locations, especially if you are close to a city. The most common restrictions are height limitations and mandated distance between a tower and a building or property line. In some instances, you might even need to get consent from your neighbors.

If nothing else, these laws provide a great reason to move out on to a homestead a little further from the city lights. But as a word of caution, I would suggest anyone check with local ordinances before putting in a system.

Does your location make sense?

So you have the space and the green light from local authorities to move forward, but do you have the necessary wind resources on your property. If you don’t, obviously it doesn’t make sense.

To begin, you should find the strength and quality of your wind. That will be an early test in how well your wind power system will work. So how do you do this? You need to determine the average wind speed of your site. To do this, you can reach out to a professional for help. But wind mapping data is available to give you the insight you need.

Your wind speed will likely vary greatly depending on where you live. As this map shows, different parts of the country are better suited for wind power. Areas with a wind average above six miles per hour is usually considered at least doable for off-grid systems.

How much energy do you consume?

A good idea for anyone who is moving off-grid is to have an idea of your energy needs. This means you need to assess the amount of power you use in a day. You can do this by going through your house and looking at the labels detailing wattage for each item. If you can’t locate that information, here is a good chart to help you get started. Make sure your numbers are right because you don’t want to waste any energy.

When you have that information, you will be able to purchase the right turbine and tower for your system.

You will need to perform maintenance

A wind power system requires maintenance on your end. Usually once a year. If you do this, good equipment can last more than two decades. Most of the maintenance is centered around inspections to the turbine and the tower.

So just follow the basic maintenance suggestions and you’ll be fine.

Can I combine wind power with solar?

The wind and solar power combination are relatively common in off-grid living for a few simple, but good reasons. The first is the ability for one type of energy to serve as a backup. When one source isn’t providing energy, you have the opportunity to receive energy from another source.

And think about. When it is a clear, sunny day, you traditionally have less wind. On cloudy or overcast days, or days when the weather is just ugly, you are more likely to have wind. It’s just nice how they cancel each other out.

The two working together will also charge the batteries even faster.

Wind power can be a great option for off-grid living. You will find wind power is able to power most loads depending on the size of the wind turbine and your resources available. If you are wanting to live a life of independence, and you are doing it on a budget, a DIY wind power system will be a great start for you.

12 Comments

  1. I also hope our property has a stream flow, so we can add a water wheel to the power system.

    • JP, you could breed hamsters and put them in a hamster treadmill with an electric motor to charge a
      battery.Then if they die from exhaustion you could eat them……….LOL

      That solves food and power……LOL

      You could even cook them with the power they generated…. How mean…..a means to an end. LOL

    • JP,

      I also hope our property has a stream flow, so we can add a water wheel to the power system.

      Our property has a stream; but, the amount of head and flow rate varies with the time of year. We are looking into a small (3-4 foot dam to keep a more predictable flow; but, then will still have to use a low head system like a DIY micro hydro system you can find numerous places on the web.
      While I do not think most people will find a single way to provide all of their electric power and other energy requirements, a little from multiple resources can probably do the trick while removing single point of failure problems at the same time. I can power my entire house from our generator as long as I have propane and the maintenance kits to service the generator. To help sustain the propane we can heat with both wood and a bit with solar in winter. In summer, hanging clothing on the line outside to dry, saves energy use from the clothes dryer whether it is from our local cooperative or our generator. My plan for micro hydro solar and wind is similar in that I can collect a little energy from multiple sources and keep batteries charged for later use.

  2. I have an automotive alternator in a Faraday cage just in case I need to make a wind generator. I have seen videos were people have also used treadmill motors for generators. If the lights go out I’d have to say bye bye treadmill, provided its still good…..LOL

    • Thor1,

      I have an automotive alternator in a Faraday cage just in case I need to make a wind generator. I have seen videos were people have also used treadmill motors for generators. If the lights go out I’d have to say bye bye treadmill, provided its still good…..LOL

      First of all, I think the alternator would be fine sitting on the table and the motor might be OK if the treadmill is not plugged into the mains power wall socket.
      Another thing you can do for the alternator is to keep some spare diodes wrapped in aluminum foil, assuming you know how to change them, since they would be the only things damaged in a HEM: or other non mechanical system problem.

      • TOP, I do know how to change diodes, but the IC regulator would also be damaged. I have rebuilt alternators before and used an antistatic table………

        Jack of all trades master of some……LOL

        • Thor1,

          TOP, I do know how to change diodes, but the IC regulator would also be damaged. I have rebuilt alternators before and used an antistatic table………

          I don’t like to assume; but, I’m not surprised. In that case, then you would also need the regulator assembly wrapped in the foil with the diodes. You’ll also probably need some way to solder using propane or butane.

          Jack of all trades master of some……LOL

          Same here. I too often hear this used as an epithet, meaning someone who hasn’t accomplished anything; but, I certainly don’t see the meaning that way. In fact, that description was once called a Renaissance Man

  3. Thank You for great information. Great reference when the time comes to start my off grid homestead.

  4. Dunno if anyone has considered this, or if many people live in areas where it could work, but here in the pacific northwest, there’s a lot of rain. Has anyone tried making a water-wheel using roof runoff? When the sun’s out, solar will cover you, and usually if the sun isn’t out there’s rain…
    I have no idea if this would work on any practical level.

    • Jess, I thought of something similar. A generator/pump in the main waterline, that charges a battery as you use water.

      I can imagine using it and the power level drops of and you say……hey honey go flush the toilet so I can watch the rest of the news…..LOL

    • Jess,

      Dunno if anyone has considered this, or if many people live in areas where it could work, but here in the pacific northwest, there’s a lot of rain. Has anyone tried making a water-wheel using roof runoff?

      Here in Ohio we’ve been deluged with rain this spring and early summer and while the output would be a bit spotty, a small micro hydro setup could add to the mix, from controlled roof runoff. I don’t think any one of these will likely provide all of your needs; but, multiple energy sources combined could certainly help. I mention this in an earlier comment regarding use of a stream on one’s property.

  5. Unfortunately, you may also face legal hurdles in some locations, especially if you are close to a city. The most common restrictions are height limitations and mandated distance between a tower and a building or property line. In some instances, you might even need to get consent from your neighbors.

    This article assumes the traditional and least efficient type of wind turbine. While sticking the blade high in the air can in some cases intercept better and higher speed air flow, at my location and others in our area, the ground wind can be strong and constant. I’ve experimented with vertical axis windmills (Savonius rotor) and they can be superior to traditional rotor systems in both efficiency and simplicity.
    When the traditional rotor is facing into the wind and the wind direction changes, the rotors slows, the vane and guide system redirects the Nacelle into the windw at which point the blades have to some back up to speed.
    In a vertical axis system, nothing moves and wind blowing from any direction simply add to the energy turning the rotor.