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You can generate electricity at home with small-scale wind turbines. Wind turbines harness the power of the wind and use it to generate electricity. About 40 per cent of all wind energy in Europe blows over the UK, making it an ideal country for domestic turbines (known as microwind or small-wind turbines). A typical system in an exposed site can easily generate more power than your lights and electrical appliances use.
The benefits of wind turbines
- Cut your electricity bills: Wind is free, so once you've paid for the initial installation your electricity costs will be reduced.
- Get paid for what you generate: Through Feed-in Tariffs, you get paid for the electricity you generate even if you use it. What you don't use, you can export to the local grid - and get paid for that too.
- Cut your carbon footprint: Wind electricity is green, renewable energy and doesn't release any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants.
- Store electricity for a calm day: If your home isn't connected to the national grid you can store excess electricity in batteries and use it when there is no wind.
How do wind turbines work?
Wind turbines use large blades to catch the wind. When the wind blows, the blades are forced round, driving a turbine which generates electricity. The stronger the wind, the more electricity produced.
There are two types of domestic-sized wind turbine:
- Pole mounted: these are free standing and are erected in a suitably exposed position, often about 5kW to 6kW.
- Building mounted: these are smaller than mast mounted systems and can be installed on the roof of a home where there is a suitable wind resource. Often these are around 1kW to 2kW in size.
The cost of a system will depend on the size and the mounting method. Building-mounted turbines cost less to install than pole-mounted ones, but they tend to be less efficient.
For equipment and installation, with VAT at 5 per cent:
- a roof-mounted 1kW micro wind system costs up to £3,000
- a 2.5kW pole-mounted system costs between £9,900 and £19,000
- a 6kW pole-mounted system costs between £21,000 and £30,000.
Maintenance checks are necessary every few years, and will generally cost around £100 to £200 per year depending on turbine size. A well-maintained turbine should last more than 20 years, but you may need to replace the inverter at some stage during this time, at a cost of £1,000 to £2,000 for a large system.
For off-grid systems, batteries will also need replacing, typically every 6 to 10 years. The cost of replacing batteries varies depending on the design and scale of the system. Any back-up generator will also have its own fuel and maintenance costs.
Savings and financial support
Building-mounted turbines tend to produce less electricity per kW than pole-mounted ones. A well-sited 6kW turbine can generate around 10,000kWh and the equivalent of around 5.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
Wind turbines are eligible for Feed-in Tariffs and you will earn a tariff for each kWh of electricity generated by your system. You will also receive another tariff for each kWh of electricity you export.