What is the difference between on-grid and off-grid wind turbines?


What is the difference between on-grid and off-grid wind turbines?

Each month our customer service staff answers common questions heard across the airwaves.

Whether you are currently connected to a local utility grid or not can make a big impact on what type of wind turbine is right for your location. Let’s take a look at what on-grid and off-grid actually mean, and which turbines are right for each scenario.

On-Grid

A home that is currently connected to a locally provided power source is considered “on-grid.” In this scenario a power-conditioning unit (inverter) that makes the turbine output electrically compatible with the utility grid is installed. Your turbine works in tandem with your electric utility to power your house. When the wind isn’t blowing, the utility supplies your electricity. But when it’s windy out, your personal wind turbine pivots to catch the best wind and provides clean, quiet electricity. When it generates more electricity than you need, your meter can actually spin backwards—which means you’re selling electricity back to the utility.

An on-grid system can be practical if the following conditions exist:

  • You live in an area with an average annual wind speed of at least 10 mph (4.5m/s)
  • Utility-supplied electricity is expensive in your area
  • The utility’s requirements for connecting your system to its grid are not prohibitively expensive
  • There are good incentives for the sale of excess electricity for the purchase of wind turbines

Off-Grid

Systems not connected to a local utility supplier are known as “off-grid” systems. A hybrid system that uses both solar photovoltaic panels and a wind turbine will make the perfect complement to provide minimal interruptions in power to a remote home or business that is off-grid. In much of the U.S., wind speeds are low in the summer when the sun shines brightest and high in the winter when less sunlight is available. Due to the alternating nature of peak operating times hybrid systems are ideal for producing consistent power. In case of emergency, off-grid systems normally have an engine-generator on hand.

An off-grid hybrid system may be practical if:

  • You live in an area with an average annual wind speed of at least 9 mph (4.0m/s)
  • A grid connection is not available or can only be made through an expensive extension
  • You would like to gain energy independence from the utility

Have a question of your own about personal wind turbines? Contact us.


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