Creating Green energy with a domestic roof-top wind turbine.
A few years ago, domestic wind turbines were heralded as the solution to rising electricity prices in the home. DIY stores up and down the country were doing a roaring trade in them. Simply install a wind-turbine in your back garden or on your roof, and start saving money!
As you might expect, the reality isn’t so clear cut. It’s not that wind-turbines don’t work, because they do. As with so many things, the crucial thing to take into account is location, location, location.
If you live in a rural exposed area, especially with an uninterrupted view across miles of countryside or out to sea, you are far more likely to have a strong and consistent enough wind to generate sufficient electricity to make a difference to your bills. If you live in the middle of a town, or are surrounded by hills or tall trees, the wind will be reduced by the baffling effect of the obstacles, and there may not be enough wind getting to your turbine, even assuming that the wind is strong enough in the first place.
Before embarking on purchasing and installing your own wind turbine, you would be well advised to do a wind-speed assessment. Although there are websites where you can input your postcode or grid reference, and the average wind speed for your area is displayed, these cover a square kilometre, and aren’t a reliable indicator of a specific location. You should really do your own testing with proper equipment, over a period of time and varying weather conditions. If your measurements are lower than the specifications, you will end up spending more money than you will recoup.
Wind turbines come in different sizes and power levels, so you need to choose the correct model for your needs. According to www.simplyswitch.com, the average 3 bedroom household in the UK uses 5.5MWh (Megawatt hours) per annum. RenewableUK say that a rotor diameter of 2 metres will generate about 500 kWh (Kilowatt hours), and that to cover all your energy needs, your turbine will need to have a rotor diameter of 5 metres. This obviously is too large for a roof-top installation.
Planning permission is required before any construction can commence. You will still need to stay connected to your electricity supplier, as your new supply will not be constant, and not always enough for your needs. You may also need to check that your property is sufficiently structurally sound to provide a fixing for a rooftop turbine. This assessment should be carried out with the assistance of the turbine apparatus supplier and possibly the additional help or advice of a local chartered surveyor or structural engineer.
The main attractions of home generation for most people are being ‘green’, reducing your carbon footprint, and reducing electricity bills. More than that, you can sell your excess production back to the National Grid, for more than you pay them for it!
The Feed-in Tariffs came into force on 1st April 2010, and payment is made on a per unit (kWh) basis dependant upon type of generation (wind, hydro, solar PV etc) and how big your generator is. For example, up until April 2012, a small 1.5kW generator will receive 34½p per kWh fed back into the grid. There is also a 3p per kWh export tariff, a flat-rate payable to you regardless of the type of generator you have. These tariffs are payable for 20 years from the time you start generating. See http://www.fitariffs.co.uk/eligible/levels/ for the full list.
The installation of a wind turbine is not for the faint-hearted, (you may alienate your neighbours,) nor for those with limited capital as they can cost many thousands of pounds, but there are an increasing number of people who have built their homes with renewable energy sources as part of the infra-structure or who have modified their homes, and who are now making a significant quarterly contribution to their properties’ outgoings.