- Are wind turbines good for my community?
- Are there any investment opportunities in wind energy?
- What is commercial (large) scale wind?
- What is community wind?
- What is home and farm scale "small" wind?
- Are wind turbines noisy?
- Do wind turbines harm wildlife?
- What is net metering and net billing?
- Is wind energy expensive?
- What different types of wind projects exist?
- How will wind turbines affect my farm? How much space will they take up?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of connecting my wind system to the utility grid?
- How do I lease my land to a wind project developer?
- How much do farmers get paid to host wind turbines?
- Is leasing my land to a wind developer my only option?
- How do I get out of a wind lease?
- What questions should I ask before signing a wind lease agreement?
- What is required for a wind project to be successful?
- How much do wind turbines cost?
- How big are wind turbines?
- How do I measure the wind resource on my land?
- Is there enough wind on my land to make a wind project profitable?
Wind projects bring significant economic development to their host communities through property taxes, new jobs, and work for local contractors. Wind provides these opportunities while producing clean and efficient power from a local natural resource.
There are two broad classes of wind turbines: commercial-scale and residential-scale. Most opportunities for public investment will be with the commercial-scale turbines, as many of the industry participants are publicly-held corporations. These industry participants include wind developers who own the turbines and hold Power Purchase Agreements with utilities; the utilities or electric distribution companies that sell the electricity retail to customers; transmission companies; energy marketers; turbine installation contractors; and turbine, tower, and other related hardware manufacturers. Some of these companies are listed on our Resources page. We do not endorse any one of these companies, but would recommend you consult an investment advisor that specializes in the energy industry.
A new development in the investment profession is that a growing number of advisors, managers and mutual funds are specializing in environmentally-benign investment opportunities. A business library can also help you find references to these opportunities.
Large scale wind (also often called 'utility scale') refers to wind energy projects greater than 1 megawatt (MW). Typically, the electricity is sold rather than used on-site. This category can include large arrays of 100 or more turbines owned by large corporations or a single locally-owned wind turbine greater than 1 MW in size. Over time turbines have gotten larger and larger. Not so many years ago the largest turbines were 600kW in size, and these were then the large scale models. Many wind farms still exist with turbines in the 250 kW to 950 kW size range. These are commercial scale operations, although by current (2013) standards, the turbines are now considered mid-sized. The term 'mid-size' is currently used for turbines above 100kW up to 1MW.
Community wind projects are locally owned or initiated by farmers, investors, businesses, schools, utilities, or other public or private entities and they optimize local benefits. The key feature is that local community members have a significant, direct financial stake in the project beyond land lease payments and tax revenue. Projects may be used for on-site power or to generate wholesale power for sale, usually on a scale greater than 100 kW.
Home and farm scale wind refers to wind energy systems that are generally less than 100 kW in capacity and produce electrical power for on-site use. These turbines are suitable for use with single homes, small businesses, family farms, agricultural operation, cabins, and even sailboats.
For turbines of 40kW size and larger, on a windy day, the sound of the turbine is drowned out by the wind even just a short distance from the turbine. Current technology makes sound almost a non-issue at most wind farms. However, wind turbines do produce some sound, which means wind farms should be sited with this in mind.
Some small turbines, smaller than 40kW, can get noisy in strong winds. There are many different brands of small turbines, and the sounds from each and the conditions which cause the sounds vary. If you are thinking of purchasing a small wind system, be sure to research this aspect of the turbines.
Birds and bats occasionally collide with turbines, as they do with any tall structure. A few older wind projects have raised concerns about bird impacts because they were built in areas with sensitive raptor populations. Careful siting and wildlife studies make it possible to avoid most wildlife problems.
For more information check out these websites:
The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative has a Wildlife Workgroup
American Wind Energy Association provides a number of resources
The concept of net metering programs is to allow utility customers to generate their own electricity from renewable resources, such as small wind turbines and rooftop solar systems. The customers send excess electricity back to the utility when their wind system, for example, produces more power than needed. Customers can also get power from the utility when their wind system doesn’t produce enough power. In effect, net metering allows the interconnected customer to use the electrical grid as a storage battery. This helps customers get higher (retail) value for more of their self-generated electricity.
For more information visit the Green Power Network website to learn about specific net metering policies in your state.
Wind energy is the cheapest form of new electricity generation available today. Wind power is more expensive than power from old, established power plants, but is cost competitive with any new power plant.
Technology innovations and market building incentives have helped to dramatically lower costs over the last 20 years. When the first commercial-scale wind turbines were installed in the 1980s, wind generated electricity cost up to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour. Today, wind power plants can generate electricity for less than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, a price that is competitive with new coal- or gas-fired power plants.
Wind turbines and wind projects come in many shapes and sizes. There are small turbines designed to supply electricity to a single house or farm. There are also large turbines that can provide energy for hundreds of houses. Wind projects can consist of a single large wind turbine, small clusters of large wind turbines, or even a hundred or more large wind turbines. These projects can be owned by utilities, wind development companies, farmers, local investors, or community entities like schools.
Wind energy and farming are very compatible. Very little land is actually taken out of production - just enough space for the footprint of the tower and access roads, that is, about ½ an acre per turbine. However, multiple towers need to be spaced some distance apart to ensure that they all have good access to the wind. Landowners should stay involved with the siting of the turbines in order to minimize disruptions to normal farming operations. For example, access roads can often be routed along fence lines or to avoid isolating small pieces of land. Before signing a contract with a developer, you should get of sense of how they will work with you on minimizing impacts on your farm.
The advantages of utility interconnection include having standard utility AC power when you need it, not just when the wind blows; eliminating the need for storing excess electricity in batteries, which can be expensive; and you only pay for the net electricity used. One disadvantage of net metering and net billing may be the cost of the interconnection, which can vary considerably from utility to utility. There are efforts to get standards in place for interconnection guidelines.
Wind developers buy the turbines from the manufacturers, lease the land to place the turbines, construct and operate the development, and sell the electricity to a utility or distribution company. As a landowner, your business role will be to negotiate a contract for the lease of your land to a wind developer.
To prepare for this, you need to understand your product (your land) and market it to your customer (the wind developer).
Wind developers are looking at more than just a strong wind resource, though. They are also looking at the availability of transmission lines, the amount of open space, and a host of other factors.
In reality, if a developer is interested in your land to host a project, they will contact you. Wind developers assume that landowners have not performed any preparatory analysis of their land. They choose sites based upon their own analysis methods. When they have located suitable sites, they contact the landowner to negotiate a lease. Sometimes before deciding on the land they will ask the landowner if they can perform their own analysis of the site, including installing an anemometer (wind measuring instrument).
If you think you have a sufficient understanding of your land and your wind resource, you can invite conversations with developers. Wind developers range from large, multi-national wind turbine manufacturers to small regional businesses.
Wind lease terms vary quite a bit, but general rules of thumb are: $4,000 to $8,000 per turbine, $3,000 to $4,000 per megawatt of capacity, or 2-4% of gross revenues. Larger turbines should translate to larger payments. Compensation packages typically are offered as fixed yearly payments, as percentages of gross revenues, or some combination. If you are offered fixed annual payment, you should check whether a regular cost of living adjustment is included. If you are offered a percentage of gross revenues, you should make sure that you would have good access to the information used to calculate your payments.
No. While leasing land to wind developers is still the most common way for landowners to get involved with wind energy, more and more farmers, landowners, schools, municipal utilities, and rural communities are developing projects and owning the turbines themselves.
These projects keep significantly more of the economic benefits of wind development in the local community. However, developing and owning a project yourself involves quite a bit more time and research as well as financial risk. You have to balance risk and reward.
There is no single answer to this question because every lease agreement is different. Leases are binding legal documents and it may be difficult to get out of one. Thus, it is extremely important to understand completely the agreement you are signing into before you sign it. If you happen to find yourself in a situation in which you want to be released from a lease agreement, you should hire a lawyer that has experience dealing with wind leases and easements.
Wind agreements are long term and legally binding, making it crucial for you to review them carefully and investigate anything you don’t clearly understand. You should always consult an attorney before signing anything.
There are many questions you should ask before signing on the dotted line. Here are a few to start with: How much of my land will be tied up and for how long? How much will I be paid and how will I receive payments? How will this contract affect my ability to use my land for other purposes? Are there any adverse tax consequences for me? Are the payments adequate now and will they be adequate in the future? Is signing this contract compatible with my family’s and my goals for our land?
In general, a "successful" wind project is one that makes financial sense.
Five things are needed if your wind project is going to be successful; they can be remembered with the acronym CEWPI (pronounced QP):
- C for Community support, or at least not Community resistence,
- E for minimal Environmental impact, meaning that the project isn't located in a wetland, or close to an airport landing path, or close to a cell tower, or residential buildings, or in an endangered species habitat, etc.,
- W for a good Wind resource,
- P for a Purchaser of the electricity at a good rate. (If you will be using the electricity yourself, then you are the purchaser.)
- I for an economical ability to Interconnect the project to the purchaser.
Wind turbines come in many shapes and sizes, but here is a general guideline on how much they cost:
Total costs for installing a commercial-scale wind turbine will vary significantly depending on the number of turbines ordered, cost of financing, when the turbine purchase agreement was executed, construction contracts, the location of the project, and other factors. Cost components for wind projects include things other than the turbines, such as wind resource assessment and site analysis expenses; construction expenses; permitting and interconnection studies; utility system upgrades, transformers, protection and metering equipment; insurance; operations, warranty, maintenance, and repair; legal and consultation fees. Other factors that will impact your project economics include taxes and incentives.
The costs for a utility scale wind turbine in 2012 range from about $1.3 million to $2.2 million per MW of nameplate capacity installed. This cost has come down dramatically from what it was just a few years ago.
Most of the commercial-scale turbines installed today are 2 MW in size and cost roughly $3-$4 million installed. Wind turbines have significant economies of scale. Smaller farm or residential scale turbines cost less overall, but are more expensive per kilowatt of energy producing capacity. Wind turbines under 100 kilowatts cost roughly $3,000 to $8,000 per kilowatt of capacity. A 10 kilowatt machine (the size needed to power a large home) might have an installed cost of $50,000-$80,000 (or more) depending on the tower type, height, and the cost of installation. Oftentimes there are tax and other incentives that can dramatically reduce the cost of a wind project.
Wind turbines range in size from tiny micro turbines to enormous utility scale power production facilities. Large turbines may have blades that are over 50 meters long - meaning the rotor diameter would be over 100 meters long - more than the length of a football field! The commercial-scale turbines are often placed on 100 meter towers, so the tip of the blades might reach as high as 160 meters (525 feet) in the air.
Smaller home- or farm-sized turbines usually have a rotor diameter of up to 15 meters (50 feet) and can be placed on 30 to nearly 50 meter towers.
Wind assessment takes place at a number of different levels: consulting a wind map, obtaining previously measured data, and taking your own measurements. The cheapest and easiest way to assess your resource is to consult a wind map. Wind resource maps of your state are available at the US DOE WindExchange.
It is important, however, to remember that wind maps are seldom detailed to the level of individual homesteads and there are many factors, such as hills, buildings, and trees that may further cause variances from the map. Nevertheless, it is a good place to start to give a general idea of your resource and do some basic economic analysis.
The next step is to obtain data that has already been measured by other groups in your area. State governments frequently have weather stations around the state in which they receive wind speed data. Also, airports keep track of wind speeds in their area.
Finally, you can measure your own wind speed by installing a device called an anemometer. Some state energy offices have a loan program in which you can rent an anemometer and data loggers to record your wind speed data. Contact your state energy office to learn more. You can verify that the data you collect is consistent with long-term wind Site-specific measurements using anemometers are considered by some to be the most reliable estimates of the wind resources for a project. However, they can be quite costly and require from one to several years to complete. Other methods also exist where large scale computer weather models are created to extrapolate wind conditions at a specific site from historical data. Many times these computer models of a site’s wind resource can be less expensive than taking meteorological readings for a year or more.
A precise understanding of your wind resource is the cornerstone of any wind project. While some of the best resources are found on agricultural lands, the power in the wind varies greatly from one location to another.
Wind speed is the most important factor to consider, but you will also need to look at your wind variability, direction, and shear. Wind speed varies from year to year, season to season, with the time of day, and with height above ground. You may determine your sites' average annual wind speed, or compare detailed data showing fluctuations in wind speed to your electric usage. Because the power in the wind has a cubic relationship to wind speed, a site with an average 15 mph wind speed contains nearly 60 percent more energy than a site with an average wind speed of 13 mph.
One way to start determining your site's average wind speed is by reviewing existing wind maps. WindExchange has state wind resource maps that will help you determine if your site is in a good location for a wind project. If your site is in a class 4 area or higher, and free of obstacles, then you have good reason to look further into your wind project.