Wind power is the conversion of wind into usable forms of energy. In all forms, it goes back in history to the first sailing boats. In the form of electric power generation, wind power is not nearly as old as that, but does go back to the late 19th century. In 1887, Professor James Blyth of Glasgow used a cloth-sailed wind turbine to provide electricity for his holiday college.

During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, wind power grew from a curiosity to a major provider of green energy for both residential and business use. Over that time, the efficiency of turbine design has improved dramatically. Wind energy is today one of the most economical form of renewable energy and has become a significant portion of global electricity generation.

Wind Farms

Most wind electricity is produced from wind farms. These are large-scale constructs involving many wind turbines that generate electricity for commercial use and sale. The largest wind farm as of 2012 was the Alta Wind Energy Center in California, producing over a thousand megawatts. More wind energy facilities are under construction. Wind power has become more and more popular worldwide as fossil-fuel prices continue to rise and concerns mount regarding global warming.

Home Wind Energy Generation

Although most wind electricity is generated commercially in large installations, it is also possible to use wind power on a home-generation basis. This requires one or more wind turbines installed on a property, together with wiring, a voltage regulator system, and either a grid tie-in arrangement to allow for net metering in conjunction with a local electric utility, or else a storage battery system to allow off-grid

In many countries, the installation of a home wind or solar power system makes one eligible for tax credits or deductions, or other subsidies designed by governments to encourage the use of renewable energy and improved energy efficiency. There are restrictions applied to these credits, however, and it’s important to research whether the system you mean to install falls within those restrictions. The same is true with regard to building codes and homeowner’s insurance policies. Building codes in most places do accommodate home energy systems, but again there are restrictions and it’s important to know what these are before proceeding.

Pros & Cons

The biggest single downside to installing a home wind power system is the up-front cost. This can easily run into the thousands of dollars, once all of the necessary features are included. The up-front cost will be recouped eventually from lower (or nonexistent) monthly electric bills, but it is a substantial investment which may take years to pay off. You can reduce the cost substantially by installing the system yourself, but it will represent a considerable amount of money up front even then.

It’s also important to research whether wind conditions in your area are appropriate for wind energy generation. This refers to how strongly and regularly the prevailing winds blow, and also how far above the ground it’s necessary to raise the blades of the windmill in order to reach them. Not every part of the world is suitable for wind power.

Finally, it’s important to recognize that wind power requires regular maintenance to keep the system operating at acceptable efficiencies. A windmill is a machine with moving parts that wear out. The components of a wind power system need to be inspected periodically and may from time to time need repairs or replacement. Realistic projections of maintenance costs should be made and included in your  economic models before you decide to install a solar wind energy system.