Wind power is the conversion of kinetic energy (achieved through rotating propellers) of the wind to mechanical energy, which can been seen in action around the world in utility, commercial, residential scale wind turbines that produce electricity. House or building-scale wind turbines are typically tied into the local electrical supply in an arrangement called net metering, which feeds any excess power generated back to the local utilities — actually running the wind system owner’s electric meter backwards. See all Wind Members
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Wind continues as the most rapidly growing electric generation resource of our time. Many people want to learn more about wind-generated electricity. Watch this 18-minute Vermont Wind video to hear from people who live near turbines, town officials in communities where turbines are located, and experts both in and out of the industry. Hear about the science, data and real experiences so you can be informed about the role wind can play in your community.
Wind Power History and Usage
The modern electricity-generating wind turbine has roots that
go back thousands of years to the invention of the windmill, which used mechanical energy to grind grain and pump water. Experiments linking wind turbines to electrical generators were undertaken in the U.S. and Europe in the late 18th Century, and the first megawatt-size (1.25 MW) turbine in the world was installed and connected to the electric grid in Castleton, Vermont in 1941. The Castleton windmill remained the world’s largest until the serial production of wind turbines began in Holland in 1979.
Since then, the power production of the largest wind turbines has increased seven-fold (the largest current units can produce 7 megawatts apiece!). With the threat of climate change and a greater understanding of the costs of fossil fuels, wind power is being adopted worldwide at a level approaching 160 gigawatts (GW) in 2009 — a 41 percent increase from 2008. The U.S. counted 35 GW of wind power capacity in 2009; a 2010 National Renewable Energy Laboratory report showed that the contiguous United States has the potential for over 10,000 GW of land-based wind power, nine times the current total U.S. electricity consumption.
Wind Power in Vermont
Here in Vermont, there is strong potential for wind-power electric generation projects. The best sites for wind development in Vermont are those with strong, consistent wind, which is found along the higher elevation ridgelines of our many hills and mountains. This is a perceived challenge to the pristine views and working landscapes many cherish. The reconciliation of Vermonter’s values with our energy future, and independence, is being pursued through several community-based wind projects.
Since the installation of the Searsburg Wind Power (6MW) facility, progress includes breaking ground on the Sheffield Wind (40 MW) project, and the Vermont Public Service Board approving Green Mountain Power’s Kingdom Community Wind (63 MW) project and the Harrison Family’s Georgia Mountain Community Wind (11 MW) project. The Deerfield Wind (34MW) project is another utility-scale project that has been proposed and is being reviewed. Medium and small-scale wind energy systems are also growing, as schools, homeowners, farmers, and businesses like the Bolton Ski Area, Burke Mountain and Dynapower discover the clean, money saving benefits of the power in the wind.
Learn More About Wind Power:
- Download REV’s Wind Power Educational Factsheet (pdf)
Vermont wind power resources:
- Find Vermont small wind power education and assistance through the Vermont Wind Program
- Assess your wind potential at the Vermont Renewable Energy Atlas
- Get in-depth information and answers on the benefits and impacts of wind power through New England Wind Energy Education Project (NEWEEP) webinars
National wind power resources:
- US Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
- Windpowering America Program, US Dept of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
- Union of Concerned Scientists Wind Energy page
- American Wind Energy Association
- Build your own virtual wind farm and learn how a wind turbine works at this interactive National Geographic education page
- Network, collaborate, follow the latest news and learn more about wind power on the first social network for the wind energy community, Windturbines.net
Websites for current Vermont wind power projects:
Find a REV Partner installer, or find out how to become a REV Partner installer at our Partnership Program Page
- How does commercial-scale wind power keep pollutants out of the air?
- Does it matter that the wind doesn’t always blow?
- Why do commercial-scale turbines need to be located along ridgelines rather than at lower elevations?
- Who should consider installing a residential wind turbine?
- What incentives, grants, tax credits and rebates are available to offset the cost of a residential wind installation?
- How does net metering work?
- Why should I make my project net metered?
Every hour that a wind plant is generating electricity, another power plant – for the most part fossil fuel fired — somewhere else in New England does not need to operate. Demand for electricity is constantly changing, not only between the seasons, but even minute-to-minute, throughout each and every day. The New England “grid,” which is comprised of the transmission system and the generators supplying the power, is designed to accommodate and adapt to this constantly changing demand. Some baseload plants (such as the Vermont Yankee nuclear facility in Vernon) operate 24 hours a day, but other “peaking” plants are designed to be turned on and off relatively quickly depending on the need for the power. This means that if a wind plant is generating, other plants are not needed and can be turned off. Because most of New England’s peaking generation plants are powered by natural gas, wind can play a vital role in reducing the use of fossil fuels by ramping down those plants. Kingdom Community Wind
No. Wind generation is very much like the hydro-electric production that has generated electricity on Vermont’s rivers for almost a century. Like hydro, wind is an intermittent resource, which means that it does not generate power 100 percent of the time.
Most electric generating plants do not run all the time. Some (like nuclear plants) are designed to run most of the time, while others (like gas turbines) are designed to run only when customer demand is at its highest. Renewable resources, in general, run when the “fuel” is available, whether it is the sun, water or wind.
The electric grid adjusts every hour, as customer demand increases and decreases. The grid is designed to accommodate the different operating characteristics of all types of generation. Intermittent resources are easily incorporated into the total operation of the grid. The benefit of wind generation is that when the wind is blowing, generation at other plants in New England, most often fossil fuel plants, can be reduced. (For more information, see this Renewable Energy World article and American Wind Energy Association factsheet on variable energy sources and the electric grid) Kingdom Community Wind
Why do commercial-scale turbines need to be located along ridgelines rather than at lower elevations?
Winds are stronger and more persistent at higher elevations, and the fact is that at lower elevations – even where mountains and other obstructions do not block the wind — the winds are not sufficient to generate economically viable power on a commercial scale.
Wind turbines need to be located where the wind is, as each incremental increase in wind speed results in an exponential increase in a turbine’s electrical output. Vermont wind speeds are higher, and more consistent, at the higher elevations. Kingdom Community Wind
A residential wind turbine can be a relatively large investment and may not be suitable for urban or small-lot suburban homes. Except for very small wind turbines (i.e., with rotors one meter or less in diameter) on very small towers, a property size of one acre or more is desirable. The economics of a wind system are sensitive to the specific site conditions (vegetation, structures nearby or other obstacles) at the location being considered, and to a lesser extent, the cost of purchasing electricity. AWEA
Checking the Vermont Renewable Energy Atlas and contacting a REV member specializing in residential-scale installation work is a great place to begin assessing the potential for wind power at your site, and what size turbine might fit your needs.
What incentives, grants, tax credits and rebates are available to offset the cost of a residential wind installation?
As of March 2009, the federal government offers an investment tax credit for the purchase and installation of qualifying small wind electric systems, worth 30% of the value of the system. For details, please see the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Creditpage in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) Web site. The federal government also offers a Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit and Business Energy Investment Tax Credit for larger, utility-scale wind power installations. www1.eere.energy.gov
In state, there are several avenues of aid available to homeowners, farmers, and small business owners interested in installing wind power. Please see our Incentives page for more information and links to online resources, and consult the Vermont Wind Program.
Net metering is a policy that allows homeowners to receive the full retail value for the electricity that their wind energy system produces. The term net metering refers to the method of accounting for the wind energy system’s electricity production. Net metering allows homeowners with wind systems to use any excess electricity they produce to offset their electric bill. As the homeowner’s wind system produces electricity, the kilowatts are first used for any electric usage in the home. If the wind system produces more electricity than the homeowner needs, the extra kilowatts are fed into the utility grid. U.S. Department of Energy
Net metering allows homeowners to receive the full retail value for the electricity that their wind energy system produces. Off-grid systems can provide a solution to generating energy in remote locations without the expense of bringing in power lines. However, the savings on power lines should be balanced against the cost of battery storage systems that must be installed to store what energy is not used directly by the household’s wind installation. With net metering the energy produced is fed into the gird, and paid for against the utility bill. Learn more about net metering here. Additionally, several incentives and rebates require the wind system to be net metered.