Is your backyard ready for wind energy?

Do you ever look out your window, watch the branches swaying in the wind and wonder whether you could be generating your own wind power? Well iPhone users, you can now download the app you never knew you needed… it will tell you whether you it’s windy enough for your own personal turbine. Mariah Power.

*Windspire Me* uses the phone’s microphone to capture wind noise and convert this into a decibel rating that in turn corresponds to wind speed. If you want more on the science you can read more at the New York Times greeninc blog. The app will also record your location and add your reading to a database of wind speeds.

You probably shouldn’t use this for anything more than a rough guide (and certainly don’t take it sailing); the manufacturers claim it is accurate to within a couple of miles per hour. To get a quick and rough sense of whether your home is suitable for a wind turbine, you can refer to the US Department of Energy’s wind resource map. For a more comprehensive test, you’ll probably need anemometer readings over a longer period of time.

Mariah Power makes 30 foot tall wind turbines called Windspires They are designed to operate in winds of 10 miles per hour or greater. But your own wind energy comes at a cost: one of these units will run between $9,000 and $12,000, although it is eligible for a 30% federal tax credit.

Wind turbines for domestic and small commercial uses are increasingly popular. Ever since Ed Begley Jr. featured his own wind turbine on his Living with Ed tav series, we’ve received a regular stream of questions about them. I’m interested to know if anybody has had any success with their own turbine? We’d love to hear your stories.

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  1. Alyssa O'Mara - November 18, 2009

    How does the app know what’s the sound of the wind and what’s the sound of the wind in trees? Wouldn’t the sound be louder if the wind rushes through the trees, skewing your results?

  2. Sam - November 18, 2009

    Only about two generations ago, most farms had windpower in their yards! I’ve always thought what a shame it was that this simple, free (after initial installation)source of power to pump water fell out of fashion. So many little things like this we agreed over time to let become fossil-fuel powered when they didn’t need to be–hanging laundry to dry, tending small yards and gardens with hand tools, sweeping floors…..

  3. fred geiger - November 18, 2009

    Yep. I remember my grandparent’s ranch in Nebraska in the ’50’s having an electric wall heater in the bathroom, an air conditioner in the main bedroom and an electric water pump, all 9 miles from the nearest power lines. The sourse of their power was called a Windcharger and looked much like the windmills commom in the area for pumping water out of the ground-mostly for livestock. If it could work then in technologically primitive times certainly now it could be done much more efficiently!!!

  4. R - November 18, 2009

    Good point. And, don’t forget all the other noise that might come in.

  5. Aspen - November 18, 2009

    Mariah Windspire turbines may seem like a the new latest and greatest, and I have to admit that they’re really neat to look at. But the truth is that they are nothing expensive pieces of yard art. If you are fortunate enough, of should I say unfortunate enough to live in an area that gets 12+ mph average wind speeds then you could make a paltry 2000 kwhs per year. That’s enough to offset about 25% of the average Americans electricity bill. The main problem is that there’s not that many places where we get those kinds of winds. You also have to remember that to install these you need to excavation, concrete, and trenching, which can drive the cost way up. I live in Reno, NV and we have 6.6 mph average wind speeds and everybody here thinks we live in one of the windiest places in the world. At 6.6 mph winds this gizmo might, might turn over 500 kwhs a year. Enough to offset less than one months electricity. Even if you live in an area with ripping winds most residential grid tied turbine just don’t deliver the bang for your buck. Watch out for salespeople who will almost always misrepresent these products. I actually design and sell solar pv and wind systems. Do yourself a favor and do research and examine the numbers carefully. Read some of the articles from Homepower magazine online and find out for yourself. I only recommend wind systems in areas where my customers have no access to grid power and must rely on off-grid battery based systems charged by solar, wind, and backup generators. There are places in the US where wind systems make sense. In those places I would only recommend turbines placed on a tower 60 feet or higher.

  6. Phoenix Woman - November 24, 2009

    Aspen, have you checked out the Mariah website? Here are some wind turbine installations, including one in Reno: http://www.mariahpower.com/what-customers-say.aspx

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