The UK is at the forefront of clean power, boasting some of the best wind conditions in Europe and the ability to provide almost a third of its power from renewable sources. Around 40% of all wind energy in Europe blows across the UK making it ideal for offshore and onshore windfarms and domestic turbines.
The global market for wind energy is expected to reach £30 billion by 2030, with British firms taking a £5 billion slice of the pie. A 30 GW of capacity target has been set by UK industries, to be reached by the end of the next decade – that’s a third of the national power demand. Opened recently, Hornsea One - the world’s largest offshore windfarm based 75 miles off the coast of east Yorkshire - will help by generating enough electricity to power over a million homes a year. But building at sea is expensive, and onshore windfarms are becoming attractive. Once thought to be incredibly unpopular, onshore arrays could be a cheaper alternative to burning fossil fuels.
Domestic Wind Turbines
Home owners can also do their bit by adopting domestic micro-wind or small-wind turbines, much in the same way solar panels have been implemented. A typical system in an exposed site can generate more power than the light and electrical appliance requirements of the home. Furthermore, a wind turbine can help reduce your carbon footprint; it is a green, renewable energy source with no harmful carbon dioxide or pollutants released.
The energy generated by a domestic turbine serves to supplement the normal electricity supply –connection to the National Grid is still necessary – and any excess energy generated can be fed into the grid. A domestic wind turbine can help reduce electricity bills and represent another source of income as you are paid for any unused electricity you generate via the feed-in tariff.
There are two types of domestic wind turbines – pole-mounted and building-mounted. The latter is the cheaper of the two, and often installed on roofs with a suitable wind resource. They are around 1-2 kW in size, generate a small amount of electricity, and cost around £3,000. Pole-mounted turbines are freestanding in suitable exposed positions and are normally 5-6 kW in size. A 6 kW pole-mounted turbine will set you back between £21,000 and £30,000, generate around 10,000 kWh per year and £1,500 in income, while saving 3.8 tons of carbon dioxide.
Initial costs are high, but a well-maintained turbine can last over 20 years and save thousands of pounds in electricity bills. The turbine should be checked every few years (at a cost of £100-£200), and during this 20-year period the inverter – which ‘plugs in’ your turbine to the home’s standard mains supply – may need replacing at an additional cost of up to £2,000 depending on the size of the system.
There are many things to consider before installing a domestic wind turbine. Although a lot of wind reaches the UK, a 2009 survey by the Energy Saving Trust found that most homes don’t have sufficient wind speed to make wind turbines worthwhile. You need an average wind speed of 5 m/s, but turbulence and obstructions from nearby trees, houses and other buildings means this can be hard to reach.
In some cases, a domestic turbine can actually use more electricity than it generates because the inverter constantly uses power, even when the turbine is not turning. A strong wind is needed to generate enough power to cancel out the inverter’s requirements, and you need to consider if there is enough wind to make the turbine financially worthwhile.
Furthermore, wind turbines can add to visual and noise pollution. Outside the home, the sound generated by the turbine might be limited to a whoosh or whirring sound that could irritate neighbors, but inside a humming or moaning sound that changes frequency as wind speeds rise and fall might be heard. While such installations often don’t require planning permission, consulting neighbors before applying for permission or even installing a turbine might be advisable to ensure any concerns are allayed.
There are some clear benefits to installing a domestic wind turbine: reduced electricity, modest income and the knowledge that you are generating green energy. However, it can come at a high cost, both financially and in terms of the visual and noise pollution you subject yourself and your neighbors to.
Reference and Further Reading