I do not want to sound like I am a fan of alternative energy sources for my RV, as I can already use shore power and have an 800 watt solar array installed on my roof. However, being a mechanically inclined person who is also seriously concerned about the environmental issues in our world, I have also been looking into whether wind energy would be a good alternative or addition for an off-grid RV, and I have been researching different turbines to find one that would work for an RVer.
In this article, we will take a comprehensive look at whether wind power is a good alternative power source for an RVer who wants to camp in the city or in the country. We will also go over how a wind turbine works, the different wind turbines available to the average RV camper, the pros and cons of using a wind turbine in your RV, and whether a wind turbine is as affordable as a solar power system in terms of cost.
How does a wind turbine work?
For thousands of years, people have used natural weather events like wind and water to their advantage. Take the water wheel, for example.
Water wheels have been producing flour and milled grains for hundreds of years by using nothing more than the natural flow of a stream or river to turn a grooved millstone against a apartment stone to produce these milled products for human consumption.
In more modern times, waterwheels were also used to generate electricity, better known as hydroelectricity, which was widely used in the 20th century and in some cases is still used today, but on a much larger scale.
Have you ever been out in a remote area, such as parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and most of the Plains States, where there are literally no people, trees, or houses? Instead, all you see are vast cattle pastures, windmills, and fences. Ever wonder what the windmills are for in the middle of nowhere?
Are wind turbines practical for RVs and would they be a good fit for me?
If you guessed that they were used to pump water from groundwater wells, you’d be right. Throughout the continental United States, windmills were routinely used to pump water from the ground to supply livestock and people with this resource. In many cases, these windmills were used to fill water tanks below so that livestock could drink from them, and sometimes they were used to feed small ponds for the same reason. They were also often used to continuously pump water into irrigation canals that kept grain fields such as wheat, corn, and grass well supplied with water for harvesting by humans and livestock.
The mechanics of this type of windmill were not very complex. In short, much like a car engine, a windmill has a main shaft that spun when the wind turned a series of blades designed to capture that energy. Much like the crankshaft of an engine, the shaft of a windmill that would pump water had a “U” shaped configuration above the pipe that led down to the well.
Connected to the drive shaft and pipe was a smaller rod with a piston at the base. When the windmill blades turned the shaft, the piston moved up and down, pumping water from the well below. Most ranchers and farmers used these windmills to fill troughs with well water for their livestock. Many of them also created ponds so that the produced water did not run over the troughs, but instead filled larger pools with fresh water that were less likely to dry up when the wind was not blowing during the hotter and drier months of the summer season.
According to the United States Department of Energy, wind turbines generate electricity when the wind moves the fan blades, which are connected to an electricity generator via a central shaft. As the blades spin, they turn the generator, creating an electric current that is then transmitted to a battery bank at the base of the tower, in this case in your RV.
What types of wind turbines are available for a motorhome owner?
One of the most popular wind turbines I have seen for RVers is the common blade turbine shown here. These turbines are best when mounted to the rear of an RV, especially when attached and secured to a ladder and bumper at the rear of your vehicle.
If your RV does not have a ladder and you need to secure the turbine to the tongue of your RV, this could be problematic when setting up at new campgrounds. In many cases, due to the weight and awkwardness of setting up the vertical chute, it takes two people to secure it. In most cases, it takes someone with some mechanical expertise to design a system that is easy to set up and still allows for optimal energy output in the location where you set up camp.
Of course, there are always other alternatives.
One of those alternatives is to install a vertical axis turbine. These are much lighter and in many cases much easier to set up and take down while you are traveling between campsites.
They generally produce less electricity than rotating blade wind turbines, but not by much. If I had a choice between this type of turbine and a turbine with traditional blades, I think I would choose this type of turbine.
And why? Because this type of wind turbine is much easier to store when not in use, and it’s much lighter so it’s much easier to set up when you are at your off-grid campsite.
Are wind turbines practical for campers and would they be a good fit for me?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of wind turbines?
Unlike solar panels, wind turbines produce far less electricity than solar panels. However, if you are in an area where there is a steady wind, whether during the day or night, your battery will still be charged.
This is especially true if you are in an area like the lower peninsula of Michigan where strong storms pass through during the evening or nighttime hours during the summer months. In other words: While you can harvest solar energy during the day, you can store more electricity at night with wind energy.
Is it practical and worth the investment? Probably not. While I would love to endorse wind energy as an alternative power source for your RV, the cost of the components and the time and labor required to set up the wind turbine seems counterproductive.
On the other hand, if you happen to end up in a windy area, what’s the harm? Over the years I have stayed in many places where the sun did not shine enough to fully charge my batteries. Maybe some wind power could have made up for that, maybe not.
As it stands today, I am going to forgo the wind turbine because I do not feel like taking it down, putting it away, and then putting it back up at the next campsite. The solar panels on my roof are doing a great job.
As always, my friends, thank you for following me and I hope to see you on the road soon.