I've Got the Power

Backyard wind turbines turn energy consumers into suppliers

3 min read

Think wind power and you probably imagine multimegawatt-scale wind farms featuring gigantic turbines ­producing power for a few thousand homes. But a handful of companies in the United States would prefer to have each home powered by its own wind turbine.

For years, residential wind power has been a niche ­business, mainly because the turbines designed for this market cost more than many consumers were willing to spend and the units were not efficient enough to match the cost of power from the grid. But now, one company has managed to break the cost barrier with an ­affordable turbine that matches the ­efficiency of commercial wind farm turbines and ­produces power at grid prices.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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