Types of Wind Energy Systems
Wind energy systems utilize the energy of the wind to generate and supply electricity to remote, off-grid sites or to grid-connected cities. The basic system uses tower-mounted, wind-powered blades to rotate a shaft that turns an alternator, which produces usable electricity for the home or business. As of 2010, there were three primary types of wind energy systems: off-grid battery-based systems, grid-tied systems with battery backup, and grid-tied systems.
Off-Grid, Battery-Based Systems
Off-grid, battery-based systems generate electricity for battery bank storage where there is no primary supply of electric power from the utility company. These systems are popular with people who desire independence from the local utility company, and they are necessary for those living in remote geographic areas the electric utility company power lines do not reach. Battery-based systems are limited by the size of the battery bank, the wind turbine and the supply of consistent wind.
Grid-tied Systems with Battery Backup
Grid-tied wind systems with battery backup are connected to the local utility company's grid as a primary power source, while they also charge battery banks with wind-derived electricity. Once the battery banks are filled, the excess electricity is transferred via power lines to the utility company for energy credits, which are applied as discounts to the owner's electric bill. These systems can pay for themselves in utility bill credits while offering the owner emergency battery-stored electricity during utility company power outages due to storms or utility grid malfunctions.
Grid-Tied Wind Systems
Grid-tied wind energy systems are connected directly to the power grid without backup battery banks. The electric utility company serves as the primary electric power source while the wind-generated electricity is sent via power lines to the electric utility company for credit toward the electric bill. The elimination of batteries, which are costly and require maintenance, make this system a more cost-effective option. On the down side, when the electric utility grid goes down due to storms or malfunction, so does your system.
- wind turbine image by Jorge Casais from Fotolia.com