With an estimated 40% of Europe's wind blowing over the UK, we're in a prime position to take advantage of wind power — but could you install one on your domestic property?
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Wind power and wind turbines have a long history, but it is only in recent years that wind power has gained in notoriety as construction costs go down and the UK searches for low-carbon answers to generating energy.
As such, much is being invested in large-scale wind production; but domestic wind turbines are a completely different proposition. Read on to find out how — or even if — this could work for your home.
Types of domestic wind turbines
There are two main types of domestic wind turbines: the freestanding or pole-mounted wind turbine, and roof-mounted wind turbine.
They also come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes, from small wind turbines units that generate around 100W and charge a battery, to much bigger units that can generate between 0.6 and 50KW, which can be used to power homes and businesses.
Is a domestic wind turbine suitable for my home?
Determining whether a domestic wind turbine is a good choice for you is no easy matter. It will depend on everything from the location of your home and the type of turbine, to whether you're on the grid and are suitable for the Feed-in Tariff scheme.
So it's vital that you do your homework first. Here are the main issues you should be looking at:
What is the wind speed like in your area?
Not surprisingly, when it comes to wind power, wind speed is everything, and whether you live in an open, hilly area or a built-up flat area will make all the difference.
The Energy Saving Trust recommends you install an anemometer, or wind gauge, in the intended location for at least three months before you consider a home wind turbine to find the average speed in your area.
The Energy Saving Trust also recommend you only install in areas with at least 5m/s of wind or more — and most homes in the UK aren't exposed to this much wind.
As you may expect, the amount of energy you can produce depends largely on the amount of wind in your area, and most wind turbines will have a minimum required level of wind before the even generate electricity.
You can also estimate the average wind speed using your grid reference in the wind speed database, or The Carbon Trust's wind yield estimation tool.
Location for the turbine
Finding the right location around your home will ultimately determine how effective your wind turbine is. The golden rule is to try and mount your turbine as high as you can, without much obstruction from other structures and trees.
This is because the advantages of wind power increase at higher altitudes. The best place for instance is on hill with minimum exposure and far from trees and houses, but that is not the only place that will be effective.
While you can use building-mounted turbines, particularly in built up urban areas where outdoor space is at a premium, studies show them to be far less effective owing to lower wind speeds.
In comparison the freestanding turbines perform much better when they've been set up correctly and are in the right location.
Whatever type of turbine you decide to go for make sure you have the correct planning permission in place before you place any orders. Thanks to a change in legislation, most domestic wind turbines won't need planning permission, but contact your local authority to make sure.
If they decide you do the council is likely to speak to neighbours, so it's best to consult them yourself early on.
Are wind turbines affordable?
Costs for wind turbines vary widely depending on how large the unit is and where you want to install it, and can range from £3,000 to £30,000, depending on the size and type, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
When you get a quote, make sure you ask the installer whether they have included fees like cabling and installation to get a complete estimate.
You will also have to factor in maintenance, which will set you back between £100 and £200 a year, and you are likely to need the inverter replaced during the lifespan of your turbine, costing between £1,000 and £2,000 for a large system.
If your system if off-grid you will also need to replace the batteries.
The good news is that the energy generated by wind turbines may qualify you for Feed-in Tariff payments. The Feed-in Tariff scheme means you earn money for each kWh of electricity you generate, as well as being able to use that electricity instead of using mains power.
To qualify for the Feed-in Tariff scheme you will have to meet certain criteria. You must have had your turbine installed after 1 April 2010, and have a TIC of 5MW or less for building mounted or free standing turbines.
Other ways to generate your own energy
Wind power certainly has its merits, but it isn't the only form of sustainable low-carbon micro-generation available to households across the UK.
The most popular by far is solar power. Solar power, or solar pv, is hugely popular, in part thanks to the generation subsidisation of new panels and the Feed-in Tariff scheme.
Some solar schemes known as 'free' solar even install solar panels on your property free of charge although the installer then keeps any money generated through the Feed-in Tariff scheme.
If you want to learn more you should read our dedicated guide to solar panels.
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