A small turbine can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $35,000 installed, depending on size, application, and service agreements with the manufacturer. (The American Wind Energy Association [AWEA] says a typical home wind system costs approximately $32,000 (10 kW); a comparable photovoltaic [PV] solar system would cost over $80,000.)
A general rule of thumb for estimating the cost of a residential turbine is $1,000 to $3,000 per kilowatt. Wind energy becomes more cost effective as the size of the turbine’s rotor increases. Although small turbines cost less in initial outlay, they are proportionally more expensive. The cost of an installed residential wind energy system that comes with an 80-foot tower, batteries, and inverter, typically ranges from $13,000 to $40,000 for a 3 to 10 kW wind turbine.
Although wind energy systems involve a significant initial investment, they can be competitive with conventional energy sources when you account for a lifetime of reduced or avoided utility costs. The length of the payback period – the time before the savings resulting from your system equal the cost of the system itself – depends on the system you choose, the wind resource on your site, electricity costs in your area, and how you use your wind system.
For example, if you live in California and have received the 50% buydown of your small wind system, have net metering, and an average annual wind speed of 15 miles per hour (mph) (6.7 meters per second [m/s]), your simple payback would be approximately 6 years.
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Wind Turbine
Once you determine you can install a wind energy system in compliance with local land use requirements, you can begin pricing systems and components. Comparatively shop for a wind system as you would any major purchase. Obtain and review the product literature from several manufacturers.
As mentioned earlier, lists of manufacturers are available from AWEA, but not all small turbine manufacturers are members of AWEA. Check the yellow pages for wind energy system dealers in your area. Once you have narrowed the field, research a few companies to be sure they are recognized wind energy businesses and that parts and service will be available when you need them. You may wish to contact the Better Business Bureau to check on the company’s integrity and ask for references of past customers with installations similar to the one you are considering.
Ask the system owners about performance, reliability, and maintenance and repair requirements, and whether the system is meeting their expectations. Also, find out how long the warranty lasts and what it includes.
SOURCE: Small Wind Electric Systems