A method for the optimization of a grid-connected wind turbine system is presented. The behaviour of the system components is coupled in a non-linear way, and optimization must take into account technical and economical aspects of the complete system design. The annual electrical energy cost is estimated using a cost model for the wind turbine rotor, nacelle and tower and an energy output model based on the performance envelopes of the power coefficient of the rotor, CP, on the Weibull parameters k and c and on the power law coefficient α of the wind profile. In this study the site is defined with these three parameters and the extreme wind speed Vmax. The model parameters vary within a range of possible values. Other elements of the project (foundation, grid connection, financing cost, etc.) are taken into account through coefficients. The optimal values of the parameters are determined using genetic algorithms, which appear to be efficient for such a problem. These optimal values were found to be very different for a Mediterranean site and a northern European site using our numerical model. Optimal wind turbines at the Mediterranean sites considered in this article have an excellent profitability compared with reference northern European wind turbines. Most of the existing wind turbines appear to be well designed for northern European sites but not for Mediterranean sites. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.