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Wind turbines capture the power of the wind and convert it to electricity. In many parts of Ontario, there is enough wind be worth harnessing, particularly in rural areas where large areas of open space help to create consistent wind.
The key components of a wind turbine system are the turbine itself, the tower it's mounted on and the transmission lines that carry the electricity to its destination.
Wind energy can also be used to create mechanical power to pump water or aerate ponds, for example, rather than generate electricity.
For centuries, people have harnessed the power of the wind to mill grains and pump water. More recently, wind turbines have been used to generate electricity.
Wind farms are a common sight in Europe; for example, Denmark derives more than 20 per cent of its electricity from wind energy. Wind energy is also gaining ground in Canada. Currently, Ontario is leading the way in terms of installed megawatts.
At the same time, lower turbine prices have encouraged many individuals to explore small-scale wind energy, while technical advances have increased the reliability and productivity of the systems available.
The right site is clear, unobstructed and exposed to steady winds. Turbines are designed to cut out in high winds and can't operate if the wind speed drops too low, so look at on how much usable wind your site receives, rather than average speeds that include hurricane-force winds.
If you plan to operate your own turbine, a few basic mechanical skills will come in handy. Parts can wear out, vibration can cause cables to break, and a high wind can wreak havoc.
Alternatively, leasing your land to a commercial wind power developer lets you generate income from the wind and continue to farm without the headache of looking after the turbines or securing the financing to install a large system, although you do lose some degree of control over how that land is used.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, it costs $2,000-$8,000/per kilowatt to purchase a small wind turbine.
Keep in mind, however, the wind turbine costs represent only 12-48 per cent of the total cost of a small wind electric system; you'll also need to pay for inverters and batteries or transmission lines, as well as tax, installation charges and labour.
A properly maintained wind turbine should last 10-20 years or longer.
Section 1.8.3 of the Provincial Policy Statement provides clear direction that wind energy is a permitted use in prime agricultural areas.
Contact your municipality to find out about any local approvals or permits required. Be aware that you may need to get an amendment to your local zoning and official plan by-laws. The Canadian Wind Energy Association's Small Wind Siting and Zoning Study provides siting guidelines and a model zoning bylaw for turbines under 300 kW.
If your project is bigger than 2 MW, it will also need to undergo an environmental screening process. All systems, regardless of size, must comply with applicable electrical codes.
If you are within 16 km of an airport, check for regulations on how high your turbine can be.
Finally, if you plan to connect your system to the power grid, there are additional requirements you'll need to meet.
Your first step should be assessing the potential of your proposed site by measuring wind speeds for at least one full year.
When it comes to choosing a wind turbine, remember that size counts. Invest in the biggest model on the tallest tower you can afford in order to get the most cost-effective energy.
Installing a wind turbine requires excellent mechanical and electrical skills, so consider hiring a qualified contractor. Before you can begin operating your turbine, a number of tests need to be performed a process called commissioning as outlined in your owner's manual.
Once your system is up and running, you'll need to carry out regular maintenance tasks and safety inspections, such as tightening loose bolts and electrical connections and checking guy wires for proper tension. In cold conditions, you may need to de-ice the blades.
If you use batteries to store your electricity, you'll need to top them up and equalize them regularly.
Publications and WebsitesThere are a number of helpful publications on wind energy available, including:
In addition, you'll find information on wind energy systems at the Integration of Renewable Energy on Farms website.
If you plan to lease your land to a commercial wind farm, check the Ontario Federation of Agriculture's 30 Suggestions on Wind Power Leases for Farmers.
Online Maps and Tools
The Ministry of Natural Resources' Ontario Wind Atlas provides colour-coded maps of many wind statistics for any one-square-kilometre area in the province.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association's online planning guide includes a cost calculator as well as information on legal and regulatory issues, sizing your turbine and finding a supplier, while FarmEnergyOnline.com provides business plan information for wind energy systems.
For more information:
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