10 Questions on … Wind Turbines


With the introduction of various Government incentives to turn your home ‘green’, including Feed-in-Tariffs introduced on 1 April 2010 and Renewable Heat Grants on 1 August this year, we are taking a look at the different options available to homeowners to produce their own energy and reduce their bills.

This month, we look at domestic wind turbines:

1. What does a domestic wind turbine do?
A domestic wind turbine (sometimes called a ‘microwind’ turbine) harnesses the energy carried by the wind that blows over your home. It works via rotating blades that are pushed round by the wind as it moves over the property. As the blades rotate they drive a turbine that, in turn, generates electricity.

2. What types of domestic wind turbines are there?
There are two main types of domestic wind turbine:

  • Pole Mounted: free standing and erected in a suitably exposed position on land adjoining the property. These are often around 5-6KW.
  • Building Mounted: smaller than the pole or mast mounted device and installed on the roof of a home where there is a suitable level of wind (termed ‘wind resource’). These are generally 1-2KW in size.

3. What benefits are there in having a ‘microwind’ installation?

  • Wind is free, so once the installation costs are paid, electricity bills will be reduced.
  • Through Feed-in-Tariffs you can get paid for what you generate.
  • Wind energy is completely clean, so you can cut your carbon footprint.
  • If your home is not connected to the National Grid, you can store electricity in batteries and use it when there’s no wind.

4. What might the cost be of installing a domestic wind turbine?
This depends on the size and the mounting method: building mounted turbines cost less than pole mounted ones. For equipment and installation at 5% VAT:

  • A roof mounted 1KW microwind system costs around £2,000
  • A 2.5KW pole-mounted system costs around £15,000
  • A 6KW pole-mounted system costs around £22,500

5. What maintenance considerations would there be?
Checks are necessary every few years and will generally cost around £100-200 per year depending on the turbine size. Well maintained installations should last for around 20 years, but it is possible that you would have to replace the inverter during this time, at a cost of between £1,000 – 2,000 for a large system.

6. What savings might I make?
Building mounted turbines tend to produce less energy than well situated pole mounted installations. A well sited 6KW turbine can generate around 10,000KWh per year.

  • This is the equivalent of around 5.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
  • It would generate income and savings of around £3,200 a year, if eligible for Feed-in-Tariffs.

7. How does the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) system work?
The installer and wind turbine must be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) to be eligible for Feed-in-Tariffs. The payments are actually paid by the energy suppliers, not by the Government, but not all suppliers offer FITs. Small suppliers were exempt from the legislation, but many offer the payments anyway. A full list of FIT suppliers can be found here.
The energy supplier will pay you for each unit of electricity you generate, even if you use it yourself, as well as the surplus electricity you export to the grid.

8. What are the benefits of the Feed-in-Tariff system?

  • Generation Tariff – Your energy supplier will pay you a set rate for each unit (KWh) of electricity that you generate. Once the system has been registered, the tariff levels are guaranteed for the period of the tariff, which can be up to 25 years. These are index-linked to keep up with inflation.
  • Export Tariff – You will get a further 3.1p/KWh from your energy supplier for every unit you export back to the grid, so you can sell any energy you create but don’t need. Smart meters are planned for installation over the next year and these will  accurately measure what is generated. It is estimated, however, that around 50% of the energy generated by a microwind device will be exported. (You don’t, for example, need much energy when you are asleep, or at work.)
  • Energy Bill Savings – Of course, using clean, free energy will cut your energy bills. During peak usage periods, like the evenings, you may need to import extra energy from the grid, so there will still likely be energy bills, but these could be much reduced.

9. How much might a typical installation earn me under the FIT scheme?
A typical installation size of 2.9KWh could earn:

  • £1,060 a year from the generation tariff
  • £40 a year from the export tariff
  • £90 a year reduction in the cost of energy bills

10. How might I register for the FIT scheme?
The first step is to choose an installer and have your device installed. You should then ask that installer to register you on the MCS Central Database. The installer will then send you a certificate confirming MCS compliance.
You should then tell your supplier that you wish to apply for the FIT scheme and send them a completed application form along with the MSC certificate.
Your supplier will then cross-reference your installation with the MCS database and confirm your eligibility and the dates you are eligible for payments from. The supplier will add you to the Ofgem Central FIT register which records all installations in the FIT scheme.
The supplier will then agree with you if and when you will need to provide meter readings and when they will make FIT payments to you – these will form part of your statement of FIT terms.
If you want to opt out of the guaranteed export tariff you must tell your FIT supplier – you would only do this if you have a separate Power Purchase Agreement to sell your surplus on a commercial basis.
A recent review of Feed-in-Tariffs has made big changes to the profitability of domestic solar installations, find out about the review here.

More information on domestic wind turbines, and on other forms of domestic energy production, can be found on the Energy Saving Trust’s website, here.

Click here to read our previous article: “Generating your own Electricity – Wind Turbines”.

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