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New Energy Economics: Wind Energy for North Dakota Homeowners

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Cole Gustafson, NDSU Biofuels Economist Cole Gustafson, NDSU Biofuels Economist

By Cole Gustafson, Biofuels Economist

NDSU Extension Service

In addition to large-scale development of new wind farms across North Dakota, consumer, community and small-business interest in wind energy also is escalating. To help individuals plan and develop their personal wind energy system, I have just prepared a new guide, “Wind Energy for North Dakota Homeowners, Farmers and Small Businesses.”

A small wind system can provide you with an economical source of energy if you live in an area with fairly steady, strong wind and at least one-half acre of land. Fair, steady and strong are wind descriptors, but impressions of windiness varies among people. An inexpensive initial assessment can be obtained from wind maps provided by the National Renewable Energy Lab. Winds in your area should be at least class 2. These winds average 9.8 to 11.5 mph at 50 meters above the ground.

Winds are more powerful and less turbulent higher off the ground. Therefore, taller towers tend to provide more electricity. You will have to check local zoning codes and covenants to be sure wind structures are allowed. In addition, ground clutter greatly reduces wind energy and increases turbulence. One rule of thumb is that the bottom of the blade-swept area should be a minimum of 30 feet above any trees or buildings within 300 to 500 feet.

Installation of a wind turbine will require electrical connections to batteries or direct wiring to your buildings. For systems with batteries, a controller manages the electrical input to the batteries or the inverter. In an off-grid system, batteries will store the power. An inverter is needed to convert direct-current electricity to alternating current used by most modern appliances and motors.

Research indicates that wind energy is most economical if it is properly sized to your energy demands. Any reputable wind turbine representative can provide you with a power curve that shows how much electricity is produced at given wind speeds. The amount of electricity produced then can be compared with your annual electricity consumption. Wind systems typically work best when they produce electricity for a steady, ongoing need, such as livestock water systems, milkers and pumps.

Once you have selected a wind system that is properly sized to your wind resource and energy demands, you have one last step. That last step is to see if it pays. Wind energy systems are expensive. Moreover, the initial investment is large, and income from the system is returned through several future years. Therefore, you must carefully evaluate your financial payback, which includes interest on invested monies. Several wind financial calculators are available to assist you with the analyses.

There never has been a better time to buy a small wind system in terms of incentives. The federal investment tax credit now equals 30 percent of the total installed cost. Several local utilities have additional incentives.

In addition to saving money, wind energy doesn’t emit any pollution or need any water. A small wind system can offset approximately 1.2 tons of air pollutants and 200 tons of greenhouse gas pollutants that have been tied to global warming. More information on wind energy systems in North Dakota can be found at http://www.plainswind.org.


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Cole Gustafson, (701) 231-7096, cole.gustafson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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