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Manufacturers have a responsibility to keep clients informed

October 07, 2011

The small wind turbine arena is in something of a state of turmoil at the moment. Planning (for which read slow and uncertain), certification (for which read “reliability”), confusion about how best to compare products, the recent FITs fast track review coupled with the FITs reduction schedule just over the horizon and a generally challenging economy leave plenty to think about. 

In addition, the sad collapse of one of the leading UK small wind turbine manufacturers, has, for us at Gaia-Wind thrown up something of a tidal wave of concerned turbine owners and potential owners. Many are looking for reassurance about supply, reliability and almost all, certainly those who do not yet have a turbine “in the ground”, are concerned about whether they might miss the April 2012 deadline for fixing current Feed-In Tariff payments

Manufacturers need to demonstrate that they have these very real concerns covered. At Gaia-Wind we have been working to provide answers to some of these worries, at least from our perspective.

How can I be sure a turbine is reliable?

“Reliability” covers many aspects of a turbines operation: maintenance, parts, lifespan, and unbiased information on performance and ROI to name just a few!  I think one of the first things to note is that more than 350 Gaia-Wind turbines have been “in the ground” for a combined operational time of more than 13 million hours. That’s over 1,255 years!  In Denmark, for example 77 of our Gaia-Wind turbines have been running for more than 10 years.

For those looking to compare and contrast models MCS is a good starting point. Our turbines are MCS approved; rigorously tested in US and have had Danish certification for many years. The 133-11kW turbine is therefore eligible for the government’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme.  Comparison of the independent MCS test results for certified turbines in the 10-20kW range reveal that for moderate wind speed sites (between 5 and 7m/s) the Gaia-Wind 133-11kW turbine produces more electricity on an annual basis than any other machine giving a R.O.I. of between 15% and 30%. The turbine is, by a considerable margin, the quietest machine in its class.

Just how useful is a warranty?

Always read the small print to ensure the warranty has substance. Our global warranty spans five years and covers parts, and in Scotland where we sell direct, this includes one year of warranty labour. Service agreements take us on from there. Our spares are sourced from standard parts – so our clients are always assured of continuation of supply.

How can I ensure I maximise the Feed-In Tariff return?

The recent fast track review of the Feed-In Tariff concerned itself with cuts in support to some Solar PV setups but did not affect small wind turbines. However the tariff has a built in degression which locks you in at the rate that you join the scheme, so joining early has an advantage. We are advising that while there is still time to complete your small wind turbine project to get the best tariff return, the clock is ticking!

We have been assisting those who perhaps feel they are a bit stuck in the planning system, bringing our own expertise and experience to bear. Certainly, people contacting us have found it reassuring to know, particularly if you have committed to a now problematic turbine model, that it is possible to make an amendment without a resubmission, both during the application process and up to 12 months after planning permission has been granted.

Getting the system right

We are also working hard at UK and Scottish Government levels to help smooth out the kinks in the system. For example Gaia-Wind is taking part in Scottish Government work to draft advice on noise assessment for micro and small wind turbines. This will help provide more consistency in the determination of applications and unlock barriers in the current surge of development proposals across Scotland.

Keeping information flowing is key at this time so watch this space for more developments.

Johnnie Andringa

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