RVers Go Green With Wind Power

Install a Wind Turbine to Power Your RV

Man in campervan parked at pier at dusk.
Christian Aslund / Getty Images

Many of us have solar panels on our RVs to help keep batteries charged or to help cut our utility expenses. But this isn’t the only green way to generate your electricity.  Now you can have a turbine (windmill) mounted on your RV, and take advantage of wind that might otherwise just be annoying.

These turbines are miniature versions of those you see on huge wind farms across the country. Southwest Windpower, one of many turbine manufacturers, has been generating small wind generators for over 15 years, including smaller versions (45 to 80 feet in height) for home and farm use. What makes them interesting to RVers is that they also manufacture a smaller version that mounts on your RV or boat (large boat, that is.)

Air-X Land and Marine Models

Their Air X Land version is similar to the Air X Marine used on boats to provide an energy source for yachts, except it is not designed for exposure to salt corrosion. If you live near the ocean or Gulf, and are exposed to salt air, the Air X Marine model may be what you’re looking for. The Air-X model can generate 400 watts at wind speeds of 28 mph and 38kWh/month at 12 mph.

The Air-X Land models start around $700 and the Air-X Marine models are about $180 more. Each is available in 12 volt, 24 volt and 48 volt models.

Standard features include a built-in voltage regulator, a quiet computer-controlled blade stall in high winds, and the best global warranty program available.

Air-X specifications are available in a downloadable PDF file.

Air Breeze Wind Generators

Air Breeze Wind Generators, both land and marine are rated at 160 watts at 29 mph, but with a lower starting speed of around 8 mph. The lower starting speed gives better performance averaged annually.

Air Breeze’s startup wind speed can be as low as 6 mph, comes in 12 volt and 24 volt models, and can produce 38kWh/month at 12 mph. You will need wind speeds of 25 mph to give you the full wattage, which produces around 15 amps @ 12 volts.

The Air Breeze has only two moving parts and uses a brushless neodymium alternator. It is made of aircraft quality aluminum ally castings, and uses a microprocessor-based, smart regulator that tracks peak power.

Like the Air-X, the Air Breeze is around $700 for the land model and an additional $180 for the marine model.

Disadvantages of Wind Generators

There may appear to be more cons than pros to wind turbines, but the severity of some of the cons don’t outweigh the savings and opportunity to have electrical power when shore power is not available. Remember that this article was written with brick and mortar homes in mind.

Some of the drawbacks to turbines most likely to affect RVers are the need for wind, they can be noisy, they may operate at only 30 percent capacity, and can be damaged in lightening storms.

Advantages of Wind Generators

Cost and environmental friendliness are two of the biggest advantages of using wind generators. The cost of using a wind generator is less than 5¢ per kWh. That’s about half the cost of solar power. Installation and initial investment for an RVer is significantly less for a wind generator, than for equivalent power-capable solar panels.

But like solar panels, wind generators take advantage of nature’s renewable resources, which don’t deplete any resource, don’t cause damage to the environment, and don’t rely on the power grid.

Not relying on the power grid is especially valuable for RVers who boondock, or those who are caught up in a natural disaster that can cause a power outage. To be able to provide your own electrical power to your RV without using shore power or a generator could be a real asset.

We’ve paid between $60.00 and $105.00 for monthly electric hookup at most of the RV parks we’ve stayed at. I’m sure it would have been even higher if we stayed in Texas this summer. Even if we needed two turbines to provide enough electricity to power everything, as full-timers, we could recoup our investment within 14 to 24 months. After that, we might not need shore power at all.

Having both solar power, which is most efficient on bright sunny days, and wind power, which can be efficient both on sunny as well as overcast, cloudy, or stormy days, could reap an RVer the best of both worlds. With two power sources, you should be able to run just about everything in your RV and keep you battery charged.

If you like RVing along the Texas Gulf Coast, you know the wind there is relentless. You also probably know that electric costs in Texas are higher than in many other states. A wind turbine might be an excellent choice for snowbirds (winter Texans) who head to south Texas every year.

Potential Bonus Advantage to Installing an RV Wind Turbine

To my knowledge, the energy tax credit of 30% of the cost of a device that uses a renewable energy resource, such as a wind turbine, has not been tested for wind turbines installed on RVs that are the permanent home for full-timers. But, Federal law, “(Section 25C(c)(1)(A)) specifies: such component is installed in or on a dwelling unit located in the United States and owned and used by the taxpayer as the taxpayer's principal residence.”

Principal residence is defined as a:

  • Home that you own and use as your principal residence
  • You must live in this home most of the time
  • Exceptions are vacations, illness, education, business, military service or other special and temporary circumstances
  • The home must be in the United States
  • It can include a house, houseboat, mobile home, cooperative apartment, condominium, and a manufactured home

If anything fits the description of a mobile home it would be an RV–a motor home, trailer or fifth wheel. Check with your tax advisor to see if you qualify for an energy efficiency tax credit. This credit is effective on units installed through 2016.