Like the windmills of long ago, most wind turbines are built to serve an entire community, not just one household or building. Strategically located wind farms farm contain many large wind turbines mounted on tall towers. They convert the kinetic energy of the wind into electricity, which can be transferred to distant communities along the power grid. These wind turbines are not suitable for most locations. However, a small wind turbine can be installed above a house, garage, or commercial building in almost any location, and it will produce energy for the residents of the building.
In remote locations, the energy gathered from a small wind turbine can be stored in a battery system for later use. Typically, however, a building with a wind turbine is still connected to the power company's system. On days when the wind blows hard, the turbine is likely to harvest more energy than is needed immediately. The extra energy can be sold to the power company. On windless days, the building can use electricity provided by the company.
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Using a small wind turbine is helpful to the environment. Usually power companies generate electricity through methods that cause pollution, sometimes at very high levels. The power from a small wind turbine is generated without pollution. When the home or business gets its energy from its own small wind turbine, it will not require energy that has been generated with polluting methods. If the wind turbine sells extra electricity to the power company, even less energy will need to be generated by procedures that damage the environment.
When many large wind turbines are gathered in one place, they make a lot of noise. There has been some concern about the effect of constant loud noise on areas near wind farms. A small wind turbine, however, makes little noise. Most make less noise than a washing machine.
Homeowners planning to install a small wind turbine should check the average wind speeds in their location carefully before making a decision. If the area has frequent strong winds, it is a good financial choice. In relatively windless locations, it will take much longer to pay for itself.
A small wind turbine is usually installed on its own tower. Prospective buyers should check local ordinances before deciding to purchase. It may be necessary to get special permission to install a tall structure. Engineers are experimenting with a type of small wind turbine that can be installed directly on the rooftop, but this type is not yet widely available.