Now that David Cameron has had his wind turbine installed and considering we probably would all like to save a bit on our energy bills I decided to do a little research on alternative energy, in this case wind turbines. What I found out surprised even me. Firstly, there are few sites which give accurate information and many that want money for, probably, not a great deal.
So, how can you tell if you would benefit from a wind turbine?
First of all do you have any wind! Seems pretty obvious but no-one seems to be explaining this very well. In urban areas wind can be quite turbulent as the flow is affected by all the buildings, the more consistent the wind is, the better. In the city a wind turbine needs to be above the roof line to give best results. Ideally, do a survey before letting go of your hard-earned, you can get your hands on a weather station with PC interface for around £100. Collect some information about average wind speeds at different times of the year and you will soon know whether a wind turbine would be any benefit. Compare your results with the specifications of the model(s) of turbine you are considering buying. Output is roughly linear so, if a 500 watt turbine needs a wind speed of 12 miles per hour (5.4 m/s) and your average is 6 miles per hour you’ll average 250 watts.
You’ll need planning permission although for the small 500 watt systems it’s unlikely to be refused and you could also qualify for a grant towards the cost.
Okay, so you’ve established that you could get some ‘free’ electricity from a wind turbine what do you buy?
Off the shelf
B&Q offer a fully installed unit for just under £2000. It’s designed to plug straight into a standard 13amp socket to supplement your supply directly. Admittedly, £2000 is a lot to spend but it is an approved system fitted by an approved supplier and, therefore, is a qualifying system for a grant.
Install your own
You can buy wind turbines from as little as £500 but you need to be aware that you need a degree of mechanical and electronic skill to be able to install and maintain them. For example, these systems are generally low voltage so will need a battery pack and control system to complete the setup. They are unlikely to qualify for a grant as they are, typically, not approved and are DIY installations.
Build your own
You can build your own for as little as £100 provided you have the necessary mechanical and electronic skills. There are courses run by people such as Hugh Piggott which can provide the necessary skills. If you have these skills already try Mike’s site which gives comprehensive instructions. You’ll need to hunt around for a suitable generator as the one he used is rare as hens teeth 🙂
Would you save any money? Well, at today’s prices tier 1 costs per kWh are around 15p; if your 500 watt system achieved an average 30% output (optimistic) you would generate 3.6 kWh per day saving 54p. Saving over a year would be around £197. In summary, build it yourself pays for itself in about 2 years; install your own pre-built system and get your money back in 5-6 years but the B&Q option is going to take nearer 10-12 years to recover the costs.
I think I’m gonna look at building but I’m collecting wind speed information first…