Mastering Wind Turbine Electricity: A Comprehensive Guide

Wind turbine electricity is a renewable energy source that harnesses the kinetic energy of the wind to generate electrical power. This comprehensive guide delves into the technical details, hands-on aspects, and practical considerations of setting up a wind turbine system for electricity generation.

Understanding Wind Turbine Electricity

Wind turbine electricity is generated through the conversion of the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical or electrical energy. The ability to generate electricity is measured in watts, with larger units such as kilowatts (kW), megawatts (MW), and gigawatts (GW) commonly used to describe the capacity of generating units like wind turbines or other power plants. Electricity production and consumption are measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), which represents one kilowatt (1,000 watts) of electricity produced or consumed for one hour.

Wind Turbine Output and Capacity

The output of a wind turbine depends on the turbine’s size and the wind’s speed through the rotor. An average onshore wind turbine with a capacity of 2.5-3 MW can produce more than 6 million kWh in a year, enough to supply 1,500 average EU households with electricity. An average offshore wind turbine of 3.6 MW can power more than 3,312 average EU households.

In Europe, the total installed wind power capacity at the end of 2012 covered 7% of the EU-27’s electricity demand. By 2020, EWEA estimates that 230 GW (including 40 GW offshore) of wind power capacity will be installed in the EU, meeting 15-17% of the EU’s electricity demand (4.2% from offshore). By 2050, EWEA estimates that wind power will meet 50% of the EU’s electricity demand.

Measuring Wind Turbine Performance

Real-time power, rotor speed, and wind speed data are crucial for measuring the performance of a wind turbine and deciding whether maintenance is necessary. These measurements can also help optimize the wind turbine and assess if it has been sited in the correct position.

Estimating the Wind Resource

wind turbine electricity

Estimating the wind resource is a crucial step in setting up a wind turbine system. There are several methods to assess the wind resource:

  1. Airport Wind Speed Data: Airport wind speed data can provide average wind speed information, but local terrain influences and other factors may cause the wind speed recorded at an airport to be different from your particular location.

  2. Vegetation Flagging: Vegetation flagging involves examining the deformation of trees, especially conifers or evergreens, to determine the area’s prevailing wind direction and speed.

  3. Measurement Systems: A measurement system, such as a wind resource measurement system, provides the clearest picture of the available resource, but it requires a significant investment.

Zoning and Permitting Requirements

Zoning and permitting requirements involve researching local ordinances and restrictions from neighborhood covenants. Jurisdictions often restrict the height of structures in residentially zoned areas, and variances may be obtainable if you are willing to absorb the time and cost. Noise issues are also a concern, but most residential-sized wind turbines are not a significant source of noise under most wind conditions.

Analyzing the Economics of a Small Wind Electric System

The economics of a small wind electric system involve estimating costs, savings, cash flow, output, electric bills and electric bill comparisons, wind characteristics, and simple payback in years. A professional installer should be able to assist with many of these estimates. Resources such as DOE’s Consumer Guides for Small Wind can also help you get started on some of these estimates.

Estimated Costs and Savings

The cost of a small wind electric system can vary widely depending on the turbine size, tower height, and other factors. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a typical residential-scale wind turbine (1-10 kW) can cost between $3,000 and $8,000 per kilowatt of capacity, including the turbine, tower, foundation, and installation. The annual energy output of a small wind electric system can offset a significant portion of your home’s electricity consumption, leading to substantial savings on your electric bills.

Cash Flow and Payback Period

The cash flow and payback period for a small wind electric system depend on various factors, such as the system’s cost, energy output, and the local electricity rates. The simple payback period, which is the time it takes for the system to pay for itself through energy savings, can range from 5 to 15 years, depending on the specific circumstances.

Optimizing Wind Turbine Performance

To optimize the performance of a wind turbine, it is essential to monitor and analyze real-time data, such as power output, rotor speed, and wind speed. This data can help identify any issues or inefficiencies in the system and guide maintenance decisions.

Monitoring and Data Analysis

Monitoring systems can provide detailed information on the wind turbine’s performance, including:

  • Power Output: Tracking the power output of the wind turbine can help identify any changes or fluctuations in its performance.
  • Rotor Speed: Monitoring the rotor speed can help ensure the turbine is operating within the optimal range and detect any mechanical issues.
  • Wind Speed: Measuring the wind speed at the turbine’s location can help assess the available wind resource and determine if the turbine is sited in the optimal position.

By analyzing this data, you can optimize the wind turbine’s performance, schedule maintenance, and ensure it is generating electricity efficiently.


Generating wind turbine electricity involves a deep understanding of the technical specifications, hands-on details, and practical considerations of wind turbine systems. From estimating the wind resource and navigating zoning and permitting requirements to analyzing the economics and optimizing performance, this comprehensive guide provides the necessary information to set up a successful wind turbine system for electricity generation.

By following the guidelines and resources provided in this article, individuals can gain a thorough understanding of wind turbine electricity and the steps required to generate it themselves. Whether you are a homeowner, a small-scale business, or a renewable energy enthusiast, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and tools to harness the power of wind and generate clean, sustainable electricity.


  1. Wind Energy Basics – EWEA
  2. Wind Energy Frequently Asked Questions – EWEA
  3. Measuring the Performance of a Wind Turbine – Pico Technology
  4. Planning a Small Wind Electric System – U.S. Department of Energy
  5. Wind Data and Tools – National Renewable Energy Laboratory