Question: I’ve seen “big box” stores with windmills on top. Is wind power really something I should be thinking about to help cut my energy costs?

Answer: Funnily enough, a few years ago, small-scale wind-power just wasn’t an option for most businesses. Wind turbines—which generate electricity and aren’t used for milling things—were too big and bulky to be easily mounted on rooftops.

Recently, though, small wind turbines (sometimes called microturbines) have become a common feature on many commercial buildings—but  there are limitations.

But first, a few basics.

Believe it or not, wind energy is actually solar energy in disguise. When the sun heats the planet, warm air rises and cool air sinks. This air movement is what causes wind.

At the moment, wind energy powers over one million homes in Canada. Denmark gets more than 20% of all its electricity from wind power.

Using small wind power for an urban restaurant may not be all that easy—yet

Although wind power is rapidly becoming more popular, harnessing wind energy in an urban setting is still challenging, since buildings make windflow unpredictable. For a wind turbine to work at peak efficiency, it needs to be high enough not to be blocked by obstacles—and this is particularly hard in a city setting, where there are often tall buildings.

As well, mounting a wind turbine on a roof means your roof needs to be able to withstand vibrations and the extra weight load. Plus, zoning bylaws may restrict what you’re able to put on your roof.

If you’re interested in the environmental benefits of wind power, but aren’t in an area that’s well-suited to mounting a wind turbine, take a look at Bullfrog Power. They provide electricity to homes and businesses that has, in part, been produced by wind.

Of course, if  you run a restaurant in a rural area, or in a setting where there are few obstacles to windflow, putting up a ground-mounted small wind turbine might be something to consider. These can help reduce your energy usage, and, in some areas, allow you to sell energy back to your municipal power grid.

For more information about wind power, take a look at the Canada Wind Energy Association’s Small Wind website.

If you’ve had experience with using wind power, share your story in the comments section.

Image credit: vaxomatic