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Wind Turbines can make very sound investments

June 03, 2009

Throughout rural and urban England you will have no doubt seen the Wind Turbines that are beginning to appear. See if a wind turbine could help to reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint using the following guide.

Types of Turbines available

The tradition small wind turbines available are horizontal axis with 2 or 3 blades. There are also vertical axis  turbines available and wall mounted turbines. They vary from as small as 100 – 500 watts, these are usually wall mounted turbines, the larger turbines are 2.5 kilowatts – 50 kilowatts these are mast mounted.


To realise a long term cost and carbon saving the location of the turbine is the most important factor. For information on the average wind speed for your location it is best to contact the local meteorological bureau (uk – Carbon Trust wind power estimator). To get accuate results from a specific location the recommendation would be to install an anemometer.

The BWEA says “At the right locations small wind systems can produce electricity cheaper than the grid and payback their embedded carbon within months”.

Generally speaking rural locations are better suited to wind turbines. A report recently published by the carbon trust in the UK concluded that wind turbines in a rural settings were four times more affective than those in an urban setting.

Turbines installed in built up areas face 2 major problems. Firstly buildings often disrupt the wind flow making the area turbulent therefore rendering  the turbine almost useless. Secondly the size of the turbines generally installed in built up areas are very small, 1 kilowatt, and these models rarely deliver the cost and energy saving required.

Price of turbines?

1 kilowatt models range from £1000 – £2000
6 kilowatt models range from £27,000
15 Kilowatt models range from £45,000

Prices of turbines do vary a lot and is dependable on the size and power. Most prices include installation. Turbines can last over 20 years providing they undergo regular maintenance.

Grants available?

In the UK the Low Carbon Buildings Program offers up to £2500 funding towards domestic renewable energy ventures. Grants are also available from governments in other countries.

The BWEA advised that the domestic wind turbine market grew by 80% from 2006 – 2007 in the UK.

Energy Savings?

An average UK household annually uses 3,300 kilowatt hours of electricity, this comes at a cost of around £500. A 1 Kw turbine, which is likely to produce between 10% and 20% of your total annual requirements, will save you between £50 – £100 a year. If the turbine cost £1500 to buy then the payback period at current electricity prices would be 15-30 years.

The BWEA has calculated that a £22,000 proven Energy 6kW turbine at wind speeds of 6.5 meters per second can produce 12,500 kilowatt hours. This would mean a surplus of electricity to most households, meaning that the surplus could be sold back to the grid.

Gaia-Wind’s 11kW turbine results are even more impressive. Costing around £45,000 ($65,000) the turbine that was installed at a dairy farm in the Scottish Borders in a wind speed area of 6.5 meter per second will produce around 40,000 kilowatt hours per year. The BWEA have calculated that factoring in the selling surplus this turbine’s payback time could be 5 years.

Surplus energy can be sold back to the grid in many countries in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates or green tags. In the UK at the current energy prices these can help reduce your payback period by up to ten years.

Stephen Andrews from the UK’s Centre For Sustainable Energy said ” In a rural area, as long as you have a good wind resource then small scale wind turbines, up to 15kW, are very good. They can have a payback period of much less than 10 years”.

Carbon Savings?

Alex Murley from the BWEA said ” In the UK market, 172 grams of carbon is saved for every kilowatt hour produced by a wind turbine”

Other Considerations?

Planning – For most domestic turbine planning permission is required especially mast mounted ones.
Noise – Large models can be quiet noisy, proper consideration as to where the turbine will be sited is needed as not to affect neighbours.

Service – As with any piece of machinery regular services are required so ensure is effectiveness
Replacement batteries – Battery storage systems do not last as long as a turbine does and would need to be replaced, this can be fairly costly.

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