In this guide:
How do wind turbines work?
What are domestic wind turbines?
What are the benefits of domestic wind turbines?
Who can have home wind turbines?
What are the financial costs of installing a wind turbine?
A wind turbine is one of the most visible (and, for that reason, controversial) methods of renewable energy generation. Though it’s a highly effective way of creating 100% renewable electricity, bunching them together into wind farms often results in complaints and campaigns against them from groups who feel they spoil local areas.
But apart from their use in wind farms, can wind turbines make a difference specifically to your property’s energy usage? Domestic wind turbines are growing in popularity - could they be suitable for your home?
Essentially, wind turbines work when the wind is blowing strongly enough to turn the machine’s blades, which then drives a turbine that produces electricity. The stronger the wind, the more electricity is produced. Wind farms, where all the turbines work together as one, can provide enough power for a large town.
As of February 2020, there were 35 offshore wind farms located around the UK, with four more under construction. They’re predominantly situated off the Kent, Yorkshire and Norfolk coasts.
There are currently around 1,500 onshore wind farms located throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
While industrial wind farms can provide energy for entire villages and towns, the increase in desire for renewable energy coupled with a burgeoning DIY attitude to home renovations has led to a rise in the use of domestic wind turbines. These are turbines that can be installed at a specific property to provide that property with renewable electricity.
There are three main benefits to installing a wind turbine on your property:
Free electricity - although you’ll have to pay for the installation of the turbine, the electricity after that will be freely generated.
Electricity storage - assuming your home isn’t connected to the national grid, you’ll be able to hang onto electricity you don’t use for a day without any wind.
Cut (or eliminate) your home carbon footprint - as you’re using exclusively renewable electricity, you’re not sending harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.
Anyone, in theory, can have a home wind turbine. There are three things to take into consideration, though:
Do you actually have the space to install a turbine? You’ll need a fairly sizeable garden for a pole-mounted turbine which can generate 5-6kW, or a sturdy roof which can have a building mounted turbine installed on it to generate 1-2kW.
You’ll also need (obviously) to live in a fairly windy place, so properties near the coast or at a decent level of elevation would be optimal candidates. If you don’t get any wind, you won’t be generating any electricity, so make sure the gusts you get are strong ones.
Depending on where you are in the UK, there are different levels of planning permission required. England, in particular, has a number of stringent conditions that have to be met when installing a wind turbine, but residents in all British nations will usually need to apply for planning permission before starting any installation work.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, the potential costs of installing a wind turbine are as follows:
Installation: A pole mounted system capable of producing 6kW can cost between £23,000 and £34,000.
Maintenance: Regular maintenance costs could be around £100 to £200 per year. You may also need to eventually replace the system’s inverter, which could cost between £1,000 and £2,000.
On the other hand, you may be able to save money by selling excess electricity generated to the national grid, in addition to the money you save from generating your own electricity anyway.
The biggest concerns for homeowners thinking about getting a home wind turbine should be:
Can I afford it?
Do I have the space to install it?
Is there anything else I could get that would be more energy efficient?
We’ve covered the first two points above, but the third is worth considering further. Is the expenditure worth it when you could get a ground source heat pump that also offers clean energy at a (probably) more consistent and efficient rate for a lower cost? Remember to evaluate all the options before you pull the trigger on a domestic wind turbine.
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