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Wind Turbines
Frequently Asked Questions

Questions About Wind Power?

Q: Are there incentives for purchasing personal wind turbines?

A: Yes, there are incentives. The U.S. government currently offers a 30% tax credit. In addition, some states, local governments and utilities may offer incentives of their own. Our certified dealer/installers can help you identify the incentives you qualify for.

Q: What is the difference between on-grid and off-grid turbines? How do I know which one is right for me?

A: If your home currently gets its energy from a utility company, you will need an on-grid turbine, Skystream, which helps decrease your monthly utility bill by generating energy your home draws on before it turns to your utility company for energy.

If you currently don't have the option of buying energy from a utility company, you have what is known as an off-grid need. Our AIR and Whisper turbines are made specifically for off-grid use, so the energy they generate is used to charge batteries your home draws on for all of its energy needs.

Homeowners with off-grid needs often create what is known as a hybrid system, which employs both wind energy and energy generated by solar photovoltaic cells to keep their batteries charged.

Q: Do I have a good site?
A:Siting a wind generator is extremely important to the performance of the machine. The ideal location for a wind turbine is 20 feet (6 m) above any surrounding object within a 250-foot (76 m) radius. This generally means your property should be at least a half acre in size.

Q: Do I have enough wind?
A: You can find out using SouthWest WindPower free wind energy assessment.

Q: What are my local laws?
A:Determine if you have any local restrictions from a homeowners' association or city or county that prohibit the use of towers.

  • If you have a homeowners' association (HOA), check the guidelines relating to towers or tall structures.

Ask your local county planning and zoning authority whether you can place a tower on your property. The tower must place the turbine at least 20 feet (6 m) above any surrounding object.

Questions about Skystream?

Q: How does Skystream work?
A: Skystream is a wind generator installed on top of a tower that converts the kinetic energy in the wind into electricity to be used in a home's electrical system.

In a typical residential application, the Skystream and a local utility serve a home simultaneously. If the wind speeds are below cut-in speed (8 mph), there will be no output from the generator and all of the needed power is purchased from the utility. As wind speeds increase, the Skystream's output increases and the amount of power purchased from the utility is proportionately decreased. When the Skystream produces more power than the house needs, the meter spins backward, creating a credit that can be used later. All of this is done automatically without any interaction by the homeowner. Batteries are not required with Skystream.

Q: Will Skystream save me money?
A: Skystream can help reduce your electric bills. The amount of money a Skystream saves you in the long run will depend on its installed cost, the amount of electricity you use, cost of electricity, the average wind speed at your site and other factors. Costs vary with local conditions and tower height. Most U.S. installations range from $15,000 to $18,000. The U.S. federal tax credit (30% of installed cost) can decrease this cost significantly. In some areas, state incentives can offer further reductions.

Q: Will it help the environment if I install a Skystream at my home?
A: Because Skystream is a renewable energy source, produces no pollution and uses wind power; you will be offsetting pollution that would have been generated by your utility company. Over its life, the Skystream can offset more than 6000 pounds of global warming pollutants (carbon dioxide and other gases that are associated with global warming) every year.

Q: Does Skystream create any sound or interfere with TV reception?
A: Skystream is extremely quiet and makes a small amount of operating sound similar to the level of a small office. It generally cannot be heard over typical background noise such as the sound of the wind. Skystream does not interfere with TV reception.

Q: Is Skystream dangerous to birds?
A: While no formal studies have been done, anecdotal evidence indicates that birds occasionally collide with small wind generators as they do with any other type of structure. However, such events are very rare.

More reading: Download the "Small Wind & Birds" fact sheet.

Q: Should my neighbors be concerned about safety if I get a Skystream?
A: No. Skystream's design was done in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratories. As part of this project, extensive computer modeling and field testing was done to ensure a safe design. All of Skystream's testing was done to internationally accepted standards for small wind safety and reliability. Your neighbors who may have some concerns about safety may appreciate the following information:

Tower stability: Thousands of small wind generators are installed in the U.S. every year, and their safety track record is excellent. Trees are much more likely to fall than a properly installed Skystream, yet no setbacks or minimum property sizes are required for trees.

Safety of utility repair personnel during a power outage: In accordance with IEEE and UL, Skystream will automatically shut down in the event of a power outage, and will not energize a dead power line. This is necessary to protect the utility line repairperson.

Ice shed from rotor blades: Ice buildup makes Skystream blades less aerodynamic, so that they turn more slowly. Typically, ice will drop to the base of the generator tower and is not dangerous.

Children and towers: In terms of educating children about not climbing structures, a small wind generator should be treated no differently than other climbable structures such as water towers or amateur radio antennas.

More reading: Download the "Small Wind & Your Neighborhood" fact sheet.

Q: Will a Skystream damage neighboring property values?
A: No. With thousands of small wind generators installed today in the U.S., there has never been any evidence to support this claim. Actually, there are several survey sources that indicate otherwise.

Q: Will my utility allow me to hook up a Skystream?
A: Yes. Federal regulations (specifically, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, or PURPA) require utilities to connect with and purchase power from small wind energy systems. Your dealer should be able to help arrange the required utility company approvals.

Q: Will my local government allow me to install a Skystream?
A: A Skystream is a structure that normally requires a building permit. Zoning regulations often limit the height, placement, and other characteristics of appurtenant structures, so a conditional (special) use permit or variance may be necessary.

Q: Will I have to change any of the wiring in my house?
A: No. A Skystream can easily be installed at any existing home without the need to change any wiring or appliances. In most cases, the utility will install a second utility meter to measure how much surplus electricity it is receiving from the generator owner.

Q: What about towers?
A: Towers as short as 35 feet tall are available for Skystream. However in some circumstances, a taller tower may be necessary to raise the generator above turbulence created by obstacles on the ground and/or trees. Wind speed increases with height above ground, and increasing speed increases the amount of energy your generator will produce. Relatively small investments in increased tower height can yield high rates of return in energy production. A rule of thumb for proper and efficient operation of a Skystream suggests that the generator should be 20 feet (6 meters) above the top of anything within 250 feet (about 76 meters).

Questions about AIR™? Off-Grid Applications

Q: What can I power with an AIR turbine?
A: The AIR turbine is one of the most versatile distributed wind turbines and can be used to power a variety of applications including small battery-charging systems for electrical appliances on sailboats or small cabins, rural electrification to industrial applications such as monitoring stations and street lighting. The AIR also works well in conjunction with Solar PV systems.

Q: How much will an AIR turbine power?
A: AIR turbines are ideal products for the person who needs a little power for basic appliances such as TV, radio and a few lights. For larger energy needs, our larger battery charging Whisper > series may be a better fit.

Q: Can I use an AIR turbine to reduce my electric bill?
A: AIR turbines are designed to charge batteries and deliver energy to locations that are not connected to the electrical grid. With additional electronic components, AIR turbines can be connected to the grid. However, this is not a use Southwest Windpower recommends. You should be familiar with electrical systems or hire an experienced renewable energy installer or electrician if you pursue this option. A better bet for a location that already receives electricity is our Skystream system.

Q: Can I install an AIR turbine on my roof?
A: Yes. Southwest Windpower offers a roof side-mounting kit, although in most cases a freestanding tower will deliver better energy production.

Q: How can I install an AIR turbine on my sailboat?
A: Two common methods of mounting AIR turbines on boats include mizzen (mast) mounting and deck (stern) mounting. Southwest Windpower offers a complete deck mounting kit for this type of installation.

Q: What are the types of AIR turbines available?
A: Southwest Windpower offers the AIR Breeze, which works best in low to moderate wind speeds and operates very quietly. AIR X is recommended for higher wind areas.

Questions about Whisper?

Q: What can I power with a Whisper turbine?
A: Whisper turbines can be used for a variety of battery-charging applications such as off-grid homes, telecommunication sites and water pumping.

Q: How much will a Whisper turbine power?
A: Whisper turbines are suitable to power off-grid locations with moderate to high energy needs. Depending on the wind resource, Whisper turbines can produce between 100 and 500 kilowatt hours per month in 12 mph average winds, and can be combined with solar to meet all of the off-grid needs for many locations.

Q: Can I use a Whisper turbine to reduce my electric bill?
A: Whisper turbines are designed to charge batteries and deliver energy to off-grid locations. With additional electronic components, Whisper turbines can be connected to the grid. However, this is not a use Southwest Windpower recommends. You should be familiar with electrical systems or hire an experienced renewable energy installer or electrician if you pursue this option. A better bet for a location that already receives electricity is our Skystream system.

Q: Can I install a Whisper turbine on my roof?
A: Whisper wind systems are not intended for roof mounting. The extra wind loads and vibration from a wind turbine can cause damage to any structure not specifically designed for this type of use. Freestanding towers are recommended, and Southwest Windpower offers a range of tower kits in varying heights.

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