Continued technology improvements mean that wind power systems are an efficient and reliable way to power our homes, farms and businesses.

The Power of Wind - Wind Energy Provides a Renewable, Reliable Way To Generate Power

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THE POWER OF WIND Wind energy pr

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Wind turbines have become an important technology in the search for renewable, clean ways to generate power. Continued technological improvements mean that wind power systems are an efficient and reliable way to power our homes, farms and businesses. In addition, the environmental benefits of wind power get better with every turbine installed.

Increasingly, Wisconsinites are more interested in harvesting wind energy and using it to power their homes, farms and businesses. With more energy being used to keep homes and business operating and with energy costs rising at a faster rate than inflation, renewable energy resources - namely wind - make sense. In Wisconsin alone, 17 wind systems have been installed with the help of Focus on Energy. There are currently an additional 23 funded wind projects that are in various stages of permitting and/or construction.

Wind has helped power Wisconsin farms for many years by pumping water for irrigation and livestock and generating electricity to power barns and homes. Wind turbines have provided farmers a renewable, clean and reliable way to generate power. The difference now is that wind turbines are going beyond farms, to help power factories, at schools and in backyards throughout the state.

What is Wind Power?

A basic description of wind power is that energy is extracted from wind to generate electricity. This is accomplished through the use of a turbine mounted on a tower. The blades on the turbine collect wind energy and the turbine coverts it to electricity. A more technical definition would be that a wind turbine, or wind energy system, transforms the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical and electrical energy that can be harnessed for practical use. Mechanical energy is used most commonly to pump water and the electric energy is used most commonly for homes and businesses, in addition to being sold back to utilities.

Wind energy systems consist of three blades and a hub - making up the wind turbine rotor, a drive train, a tower and the electronic equipment, varying in size from as small as a 7 foot rotor to a 235 foot rotor. The electricity output of a wind turbine depends on its size and the wind's speed through the rotor. A 20 percent increase in wind speed results in an 80 percent increase in electrical outputs.

"A 10 kilowatt wind turbine can generate about 16,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually," says Mick Sagrillo, Sagrillo Power & Light, Forestville, Wis. "That is more than enough to power a typical household. On the other extreme, a 1.8 megawatt machine generates more than 5 million kWh, and that is enough to power more than 500 households."

There are three basic approaches to wind system design. The "off-grid," independent system has no connection to utility lines and is most practical in isolated locations. The electricity is stored by a set of batteries and saved for use when needed. Independent systems often use more than one renewable source to take full advantage of the weather conditions.

A grid-connected, non-battery system provides the benefits of wind energy and the consistency of the utility. If more electricity is needed, the grid supplies it and if extra is produced by the wind system, it can be fed back into grid, while running your meter backwards.

The third type of wind system design is the grid-connected, battery-backed system that provides power when both the wind and the utility fail by adding a set of batteries that store the power for later use.

There are many benefits to using wind energy as a source of electricity. For example:

  • The cost of electricity generated from wind power is stable over time and isn't subject to swings in fuel price because wind is free.
  • Wind energy is clean, non-polluting and non-depletable. It does not produce smog, acid rain or greenhouse gases.
  • A small-scale wind energy system can help make a home or business energy independent.
  • Wind turbines support the electric utility infrastructure by providing power exactly where it is needed.
  • Building a wind turbine is a way to show your commitment to the community and the environment. By using wind power, you can demonstrate that renewable energy is a viable solution for a clean energy future.

How To Find Out if Wind Power Is Right For You

If you are interested in learning more about wind power as a source for renewable energy for your property, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative, offers assessments to give site-specific information about how a wind system can meet your needs. During the assessment, a renewable energy consultant will evaluate your site and answer any questions you may have about wind power and the different systems available. Following the visit, you will be provided with a written report with feedback and suggestions on using wind power and your next steps.

Wind power is not the best option for every situation or the lowest-cost source. There are numerous benefits of wind power, but also many considerations to take into account before using this source of renewable energy.

Not all locations are suitable for a wind system. Sagrillo, who is also a leading international expert on wind power and a founding member of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, notes "The quality and quantity of the wind source must be evaluated to avoid any obstacles including trees and proximity of other buildings. It is best to request a site assessment for proper evaluation."

Wind turbines also require regular maintenance and the batteries must be replaced every four to seven years. Turbines are quiet but not all are silent, so it is important to educate neighbors and zoning officials.

"Some other considerations include looking into local regulations and the amount of wind power in your area," says Michael Vickerman executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit sustainable energy advocacy organization. There are many questions that should be addressed during a wind site assessment with Focus on Energy."

If your site has been assessed and a wind system is the right fit for your property, Focus on Energy provides Cash-Back Rewards, zero-interest loans and grants for the installation of a wind system. Contact Focus on Energy at 800.762.7077 or visit for more information about these incentives and eligibility requirements.

Available Wind Systems

With so many wind systems available, how do you choose the right one for your application? Large systems, generally larger than 650 kW, are predominately housed on open fields lined up across the land to generate large amounts of wind power. Medium sized systems (20 kW to 700 kW) are most often used on farms to generate electricity for powering farms and businesses. Small wind power systems are typically used to help power residences and small businesses that require under 20 kW.

Despite sophisticated advances in wind turbine design, there are still many misconceptions surrounding the use of these systems, especially large turbines. One that persists is that wind turbines are dangerous bird killers. In December 2002, Dr. Robert Howe and Amy Wolf of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and ornithological consultant William Evans, released the report "Effects of Wind Turbines on Birds and Bats in Northeast Wisconsin." The study was conducted over a two-year period from 1999 to 2001 in the area surrounding the 31 wind turbines owned by Madison Gas & Electric and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation in Kewaunee County.

The report concluded, "While bird collisions do occur (with large wind turbines), the impacts on global populations appear to be relatively minor, especially in comparison with other human-related causes of mortality such as communication towers, collisions with buildings, and vehicle collisions."

Questions also arise about how much noise particular wind generators make. For the most part, a well-designed turbine makes very little noise. In fact, they are virtually undetectable because of other surrounding environmental noise. Therefore, there is no real evidence to suggest that large systems will be detrimental to your property or community.

The Future of Wind in Wisconsin

Wind turbines have become an important technology in the search for renewable, clean ways to generate power. Continued technology improvements mean that wind power systems are an efficient and reliable ways to power our homes, farms and businesses. In addition, the environmental benefits of wind power get better with every turbine that is installed. There are many proposals on the table by some of the larger electric companies in the state and other energy organizations. If all goes according to plan, the state will witness as much as 10 percent of its electric power generation from renewable energy resources by 2010, much of it from wind energy. The future of wind power in Wisconsin certainly seems headed in the right direction.

About the Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program

Focus on Energy is a public-private partnership that provides energy efficiency and renewable energy information and services to the state's energy utility customers. Focus on Energy's Renewable Energy program seeks to raise awareness, provide training and financing, enhance marketing, promote technical assistance, and support the installation of renewable energy technologies across Wisconsin. Focus on Energy provides applications, with full program details, at 800.762.7077 or at

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