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.
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.
The graphic below shows the difference in size between different types of turbines.
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.
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.
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
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.
For More Information. search "Turbine noise" at these sites:
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.
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.
If you are interested in starting a community wind project, we encourage you to use our Community Wind Toolbox to help guide you along the process.
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.