Wind Power + Wind Turbine Buyer's Guide

For the cost and eco-conscious consumer, "going green" is more than just a fad. The winds of change have ushered in better, more cost-effective and sustainable resources. It's no wonder wind power is becoming the fastest growing energy source in the world. Renewable, low cost, and non-polluting wind turbines provide an affordable solution in both rural and urban areas. The Northern Tool Wind Power Buyers Guide offers you all the info you'll need to tap into this exciting power source.

How does a wind turbine work?

As far back as 4000 years ago, the Babylonians and Chinese used wind power to pump water for crop irrigation. Obviously, technology has changed since then, but the wind power process is still the same. Most wind turbines are mounted on a tower at least 100 feet (30 meters) or more above the ground. In this way, the turbine can capture the faster, less turbulent winds. The power of the wind turns the turbine blades, which spin the shaft, which connect to a generator, which makes electricity. The electricity produced can provide power for a single home or outbuilding, or can connect to an electricity grid and be sold to a utility company for wider distribution.

Are there different types of wind turbines?

There are several types of wind turbines:

Vertical-axis wind turbine—The main rotor shaft is arranged vertically, enabling the turbine to capture the energy of the wind without pointing directly into it. This works to the advantage of those who live in areas where the wind direction constantly fluctuates.

Horizontal-axis wind turbine—These turbines have two to three blades and operate by facing the unit into the wind. An attached wind vane measures wind direction, enabling the turbine to best position itself to capture the wind.

Wind turbines are also available in several different sizes:

Single, small turbines—These units are meant for individual use for homes, telecommunications dishes, water pumping or in remote areas where a grid connection is lacking. They can be coupled with batteries, solar power systems, or fuel systems to create a hybrid system.

Utility-scale turbines—Typically, these large units (from 100 kilowatts to several megawatts) are combined with other large units to form a wind farm, providing bulk power to the electrical grid.

Wind Power

What are the benefits of wind power?

Affordable—Wind power is one of the most cost-effective energy resources available, costing just 4-6 cents per kilowatt hour. Additionally, wind power can help homeowners reduce or even eliminate utility bills entirely.

Renewable—Unlike fossil fuels, the wind is free and its supply can never be depleted, nor is it exclusive to any one region of the world, so it's not subject to shortages, embargos, or price increases. It is a completely renewable form of solar energy created by the sun heating the atmosphere in combination with the earth's rotation and surface irregularities.

Eco-friendly—Wind power is a clean resource, creating no waste and no green house gases. What's more, the more wind power used, the less fossil fuels will be consumed, keeping toxic byproducts created by those fuels from entering the atmosphere.

Economically stimulating—Because the best sites for erecting wind farms are in rural areas, wind turbines can benefit local economies. Unlike drilling or mining, the land surrounding a wind farm can still be used for agricultural purposes, allowing farmers to lease land to utility companies while continuing to farm their land.

Tax Incentives and Rebates—If connected to a grid, wind power system owners may be eligible for a tax credit for the electricity sold back to the utility company. In addition, some states offer rebates or other incentives to help offset the cost of purchasing and installing wind systems. For more information go to Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (

What will I need to generate my own wind power system?

Whether you're installing a stand-alone system or a hybrid system for your home, or connecting a system to a grid (an electricity transmission and distribution system) you will need quality equipment.

Wind turbine—The wind turbine is the core of your system. Your energy needs will determine the annual energy output you'll require and the size of your turbine. Using this information, wind turbine manufacturers and retailers can help you decide which wind turbine is for you, while also factoring in local wind speeds and your specific energy budget.

Tower—Though you can choose either a self-supporting (free standing) or guyed tower for mounting your wind turbine, most home wind power systems use the second option. Guyed towers can be hinged at the base, making it easier to lower to the ground for repairs and maintenance, or to avoid damage during hazardous weather. Towers should be installed high enough so that the bottom of the rotor blade is at least 30 feet (9 meters) above any obstacle that is within 300 feet (90 meters) of the tower.

Batteries—For a stand-alone system, you will need batteries to store excess power for use when the wind is calm. Deep-cycle batteries are preferable, because they can discharge and recharge many times.

Controller—A charge controller will prevent batteries from overcharging, thus extending battery life and performance.

Power Inverter—The power inverter converts the low voltage DC to the 120 volts AC. For a stand-alone system, unless you plan on using battery power exclusively, you'll need a power inverter. If your system is grid connected, this is the only additional equipment you'll need.

Hybrid System—If you live in an area where wind speeds are low, a hybrid system (combining wind power with solar power or fuel generators) may prove most effective. In this case, you'll need to add a generator and controllers that can automatically operate the system.

Still need help?
Email our product experts, or Call 1-800-221-0516 our 24-hour sales line.