At first glance, a wind turbine on your roof or in your garden seems like a great idea. Wind is free; you can lower your carbon footprint; and you can reduce you electricity costs.
Domestic wind turbines come in two flavours. Mast mounted sit on a mast or tower and can generate up to 6kW. The smaller roof mounted design goes on your roof, and can generate up 2kW.
But domestic wind energy has come in for a lot of criticism, with some consumers reporting very low power generation figures. In 2007 The Energy Saving Trust in the UK carried out a trial of domestic wind turbines. They found that turbines do work, but… And the ‘but’ is the big thing here. They will only work properly under very specific conditions. The location has to be near perfect, with strong and consistent wind that isn’t hampered by buildings trees, or similar obstructions. They recommended that anyone considering a domestic turbine should use an anemometer to check local wind speed distribution before spending serious money.
So if you’re considering domestic generation, think about these factors before you get too far with your plans…
Wind energy is very site-specific; get your site thoroughly checked out for suitability before you buy a turbine!
Wind power can be calculated rather simply, the power generated is always proportional to the cube of the wind speed; if the wind speed doubles, you’ll get eight times as much power. This sounds great, but think of the reverse – if the speed of the wind decreases by 1/2, you’ll only get an eighth as much electricity! So to get the most from a turbine it’s key to install it in an area where the winds are strongest.
Wind speed increases with height; so put it on your roof, yes? Bad idea. Roofs, chimneys, ridges, they all make the wind turbulent, severely decreasing wind speed and its effectiveness. And avoid the roof unless you like feeling your house shake and vibrate. Turbines can resonate and shake your house, leading to potential structural damage. Stick with a mast mounted system.
Still interested? The next hurdle is the installation cost. This can run into several thousand, even tens of thousands of dollars, so this isn’t a project to undertake unless you’re very sure that your location will generate a decent supply of energy.
This isn’t to say that domestic wind energy doesn’t work. It can work, but everything has to be right to make it work efficiently. This is one case where it is really important to do the background research or you could find yourself seriously out of pocket. -MARKLEE