If you want to do your bit for the planet, and potentially save money on your energy bills, harnessing wind power with a domestic wind turbine is one of your options.
Wind turbines have large blades that are pushed around by the wind. This drives a turbine and subsequently generates electricity.
They generally require a minimum wind speed of around five meters per second and you’ll need to check whether you’ll need planning permission to install one on your land.
There are two different types of wind turbines:
Costs differ greatly based on the capacity, type and position of the turbine.
The Energy Saving Trust says that a pole-mounted system could cost £23,000-£34,000.
Pole-mounted systems are cheaper, but less efficient.
To get an accurate figure for your home, get a few quotes from various companies and weigh up the pros and cons of each.
Some companies will pay you a ground rent to be able to install a wind turbine on your property, but you’ll have to meet certain criteria for this, such as having an open, windy site.
Wind turbines used to be eligible for feed-in tariff (FIT) payments – where an energy supplier pays you for any excess energy your wind turbines generate and feed back to the national grid. The FIT scheme has been closed to new applicants (unless you installed an MCS certified wind turbine on or before 31 March 2019).
It's been replaced by the the smart export guarantee (SEG) scheme, which works in a similar way.
The main benefit of wind turbines is that they reduce your carbon footprint by producing renewable energy. The turbines also don’t give out any harmful pollutants when they run.
Wind is also free, so once you’ve paid the installation costs, you won’t have to worry about paying an expensive energy bill again – provided your turbine generates enough energy to power your home! You’ll just need to set aside a bit of money for maintenance costs.
If you are part of the SEG scheme, you could eventually recoup the install and maintenance costs of your turbine and start making a profit, although this will take a while.
You can also store any excess energy in batteries for your home to use when there’s no wind, so you can go off-grid.
This depends on the capacity and efficiency of your wind turbine as well as the installation requirements. Also, the weather in the UK is fairly unreliable, so there’s no guarantee that you’d get enough wind regularly to power your home, which means you’d have to fall back on power from the national grid. Generally, the bigger the turbine, the more cost effective it’ll be as it can generate more energy in the long run.
Solar panels won’t work during the night or on cloudy days, whereas a wind turbine can generate electricity whenever it’s windy enough, but predicting suitably windy weather is a lot harder than determining whether there’ll be a bit of sun.
Solar panels produce less energy than wind turbines, but they take up less space and require little maintenance. Solar panels don’t make any noise, but they do release a little more CO2 to the atmosphere.
It really depends on where you live too – rural areas might benefit more from larger, higher capacity wind turbines, but city dwellers will find compact solar panels more practical.