Wind turbines (in urban areas)

There are a number of small turbines available for domestic scale and they can been fitted to roofs and chimneys. Mostly this is not a recommended technology in an urban area.

Summary

The UK is well swept by winds and in principle this can be a useful technology for renewable electricity. Residents contemplating wind should read the Energy Saving Trust research report (link below) carefully on the experience of the many domestic scale sites covered. However, there are plenty of small scale wind turbines available and an installation of a 1 kW system might be around £2,000. There are two main types available: building mounted systems and pole mounted systems. The pole mounted systems come in large sizes of up to 6kW, which have a blade sweep of 5.5 metres.

Each turbine will need to be provided with an inverter if the electricity is to be fed into the grid for your use, or a battery if you are off grid. Installing pole mounted systems will require a system of stays, which will require plenty of space, and there will need to be a secure connection to the grid. Installers should have MCS accreditation. Grid connected systems gain the benefit of Feed In Tariffs from the government and the rates are set to provide a reasonable return on capital.

There are two main challenges to erecting an effective system in urban areas: first the usual methods of assessing wind speeds don’t take account of the impact of buildings: the result is slower wind speeds and more turbulance. The second is that turbines of any size are likely to require consent of neighbours.

Dealing with the planning, small wind turbines can be deemed as “permitted development” in some circumstances (see note link below). Please make sure to check carefully with your local planners. If the installation is within 5 metres of a boundary, your neighbours may complain too.

It is not worth installing a turbine unless you can be reasonably confident it will generate decent amounts of energy. House mounted turbines are often poor and some cited in the research generate less power than their inverter consumes. Small turbines are often less than 10% efficient as compared with the 40% efficiency of a very large turbine.

Geek says

“Check the wind speed of where you live before you buy a wind turbine. Built-up areas are mostly not suitable sites.” CSE

Local experiences

If you’ve installed a wind turbine, we’d love to hear about your experiences – both good and bad. Please get in touch!

Useful links

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/domestic/content/wind-turbines

Note on planning: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/permission/commonprojects/windturbines

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