Yet another gigantic wind power installation is in the news. For business owners, it raises the question of whether and to what degree wind is a practical form of renewable energy for small business use.
New York state in early 2017 approved the construction of the largest offshore wind farm in the United States. The 90-megawatt farm will be home to 15 wind turbines, which are capable of powering about 50,000 average homes. This particular wind farm is about 30 miles east of the Long Island coast, so it won’t be visible from the shoreline.
The move represents a step forward in the push for more renewable energy. And news like this gets people thinking and talking more about wind energy.
Renewable Energy For Small Business Use
What about small business owners who want to install their own wind energy for their businesses?
Let’s look at some considerations, and pros and cons, of small scale wind installations.
Pumping Water for Farms and Ranches
Farms and ranches have a long history — centuries worth — of using wind power to pump water.
Who hasn’t seen a picture of an ancient Dutch windmill? Those windmills weren’t there to look picturesque. They were there for life-sustaining purpose.
Here in the United States, windpumps have long been a viable solution to water cattle in pastures, irrigate crops, or provide water for the house. For example, since the 19th century the Aeromotor Windmill Company has been manufacturing and selling windmill pumps to pump water. The company appears to still be going strong today in the 21t century.
Aside from ranch and farm usage to pump water, wind power isn’t a common thing in small businesses. Why? Most businesses are not in a position to install windmills or wind turbines on their own property.
Expense of Wind Power
Wind power to provide electrical energy for your entire business premises can include a major upfront investment. According to Bergey Wind Power, a small wind turbine for home or business costs $48,000 to $65,000.
However, once in place you can gain significant long-term cost savings. Bergey wind power reduces energy bills by 50% to 90%. And the wind turbines operate automatically, being built to last 30 to 50 years and requiring no maintenance, the company’s website says.
Another thing you have to consider for a wind turbine is how much wind you get in your area and particular location. This is called wind performance.
There are government charts that show wind data for various areas. Wind performance can dictate the size of turbine needed. It can also impact whether wind power is even feasible.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, goes the old phrase. Some people like the looks of wind turbines. Others consider them blights on the environment.
Fact is, not everyone wants a 30-meter (150 feet) high wind turbine on their property. More importantly, not everyone wants to look at one on a neighboring property, disturbing their view. They may feel it will reduce their own property values.
So aesthetics become a major issue, pitting neighbor against neighbor. Keep in mind how neighboring residential and business property owners may feel about you putting up a wind turbine.
Then there’s the question of zoning regulations related to wind turbines. This is an area that’s heating up. Before installing a wind turbine, you will need to check your local zoning code.
There are active wind opponents who dislike the aesthetics of wind turbines. They may object based on harm to birds or have other ecological concerns. Zoning becomes a way to fight against wind turbines in local areas. Local zoning meetings can become battles.
While most zoning battles focus on large commercial wind farms, the same considerations can apply to residential and small business installations.
Similar to zoning regulations are community covenants. Just try putting up a wind turbine if you operate in or have a home business in a gated or planned community. Most likely the covenants require specific approval of something like a wind turbine. Fat chance of getting that.
The Benefits of Wind Power
On the other hand, the sustainability benefits of wind power are significant.
First, it reduces carbon footprint.
Second, by its very nature wind is a form of renewable energy for small business use. Wind power just needs the equipment and infrastructure in place and it will deliver energy for decades. Wind doesn’t put pollutants back into the air, either.
Third, the cost savings over time can really add up. Wind is free, and wind power from your own small scale installation means lower utility bills. Most manufacturers of wind turbines and windmills tout that their equipment requires little or no maintenance, so maintenance costs are minimal they say.
Wind Power Through Your Energy Provider
For the typical small business located in a city, town or suburban area, a small scale wind installation on your own property may not be practical for the reasons above.
However, there is still a way to participate in wind power. It may be possible to buy renewable wind energy from your energy provider. That way you can participate in wind power specifically — without installing your own wind turbines.
You’ll just need to check on that option with your electricity company or other energy supplier. Those that provide it may give the option to select wind energy as the source for some or all of the electricity you get.
Keep in mind, the “wind energy option” through your local utility may actually cost a little more. But if you are committed wind as a renewable energy source in your business, then it might be a small price to pay.
In summary, installing your own small scale wind energy is not a doable goal for every small business. However, participating in wind energy from your utility company could be.
Progress in any area of renewable energy makes it more and more of a possibility with each passing day.
Wind Farm Photo via Shutterstock