Why are states and utilities so bad with residential wind turbines?

The production of this turbine is laughable

A little under a year ago we wrote about the Best Residential Wind Power case study in the U.S. out in Reno, Nevada.  After analyzing some of the wind energy production data from Reno's installed residential wind turbines,  I stated in the end of the post: "The thing I found most interesting is that the wind turbines just don’t seem to be producing that much energy.  This is something I chronicled in our post, Residential Clean Energy: Solar PV vs. Wind".

Well, some others have finally caught on to the fact that residential wind turbines aren't performing so well in Nevada.  The Las Vegas Sun put up an article on March 30th with the title, "NV Energy windmill (sic) program generates rebates, little electricity" (Mapawatt note: windmills use the force of the wind to turn a shaft to do mechanical work - i.e. mill grain.  Wind turbines use wind to turn a shaft to generate electricity)

From the opening paragraph of the Las Vegas Sun article:

A year ago, a Reno clean energy businessman warned the Public Utilities Commission that if it didn’t set a few standards for NV Energy’s wind rebate program, its customers could end up footing the bill for turbines that rarely produce electricity.

One reason behind his concern: To be eligible for rebates, customers didn’t need to prove that the wind actually blows enough to justify installing a turbine on their property.

“This could allow unscrupulous developers to sell turbines to unsuspecting customers who will not generate electricity from an installed turbine because there is no wind to power the turbine,” Clean Energy Center managing member Rich Hamilton told the PUC last May. “This problem is especially vexing because ratepayer money could be contributing to the cost of such turbines, which could give the Wind Generations program and the wind industry a black eye.”

But this isn't a new issue. In fact, we wrote a post in January about the folks in California who dealt with something similar when they realized the DyoCore SolAir wind turbine didn't even come close to living up to its energy production claims.  In that case, the California Energy Commission realized it made some huge errors in the program, mainly that it allowed manufacturers to provide their own, unverified operating data, and put the wind turbine generator rebate program on hold for awhile.  It’s back now, with only 4 approved wind turbine generators.

We aren't a fan of residential wind turbines, because there just aren't many homeowners in the U.S. who can make use of them, but we have stated that if you're planning on installing a wind turbine, make sure you use an anemometer first.  This is the same advice recommended to improve the Nevada wind turbine rebate.

So is the problem that states and utilities just don't know how to give incentives for residential wind turbines or that residential wind turbines don't deserve incentives?

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"So is the problem that states and utilities just don’t know how to give incentives for residential wind turbines" Incentives need to be based on actual power production - so should only be paid at the end of some decent period (probably one year) based on the results of monitoring the device. Installers should have to post bonds to reimburse home owners if the installation does not meet claimed production levels.. "or that residential wind turbines don’t deserve incentives" Residential wind power might be viable for a very few places ... but the odds are stacked against it. You probably can't put up a big enough turbine (yield varies as square of blade length), and it probably isn't windy enough often enough (yield varies as cube of wind speed).
Several years ago I got interested in in a residential scale wind turbine here in rural Maine. So I installed a weather station on a pole 10ft above the roof of my barn to evaluate wind at the exact site that I thought had potential. After 1 year of recording data I learned that my average wind speed was around 4.8MPH - not nearly enough to justify buying a $10,000 piece of "wind art". If you want to read the blog I wrote about my experience go here: or review my weather station data from here: You can click to see 1 year's worth of data in charts. Basically wind turbines mounted to residential buildings are little more than decorative unless the wind is constantly so strong at that location as to be really annoying! Think mid-western plains or some coastal locations.
ckmapawatt's picture
My thought exactly!
Yep, in about 98% of all cases - residential sized wind turbines aren't going to cut it and it looks like all of those helix style of turbines are pure junk. The City of Ellensburg, WA installed a number of residential sized turbines this spring and are studying their output (disclosure, I'm a community investor of that project). Hopefully they'll start publishing live web data like the City of Reno's project.
ckmapawatt's picture
Steve, why are you a community investor if you don't think it will be successful ?
This is what to try, use all three, water, wind, and solar. A solar powered pump to fill the tank which drives the water wheel, which turns the gears connected to the generator, which charges the 12 or 24 volt batteries. The windmill can drive both the generator and the pump. see diagram...

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