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Environmental Issues
Going Green

By Alan J Hartley

Wind Turbines.




The UK is quite a windy place and it is claimed that it has over 40% of Europe’s wind resources. So, in theory, we are ideally placed to capture this renewable source of free energy with wind turbines. However, as with anything free there are several catches;-

  1. The first problem is the outlay cost which will be well over £10,000 for a realistically sized domestic system capable of producing 5KW.

  2. It is likely that planning permission is needed before installation.

  3. Wind turbines can make considerable noise as they continually rotate night and day.

  4. Other than on farms, or remote houses in open countryside, there are few places that will give an unrestricted wind flow to maximise energy creation.

  5. The wind speed has to be regularly over 4 metres per second, but on the other hand speeds of over 25 metres per second mean that the turbine has to be shut down.

  6. Small turbines mounted on buildings can cause serious structural damage with the constant vibration caused by their operation.

  7. Wind turbines do create A/C electricity, but the problem is that the speed of the rotors varies with the wind speed. This means the current has to be converted to DC and back again with an expensive inverter to the correct A/C power rating to be used domestically.

On the plus side there is a Government backed scheme called the “F.I.T.” or “Feed in tariff” that pays people with home electricity generating systems for the electricity that they generate.

It is claimed that on a suitable site the cost of a wind turbine will be recovered in a few years and rather more quickly than other types of domestic energy generation systems.

Large wind turbines usually need to be professionally installed and mounted on a mast or tower in open land, but small systems that are roof mounted can be bought in kit form and installed by a competent (But not connected to the National Grid!) Typically these may generate 1 – 2 KW and may only cost £1,000 - £5,000. Even smaller turbines are available with prices starting from only a couple of hundred pounds for tiny wind turbines suitable for camping or fitting to boats.

Although maintenance checks should be carried out every few years, a properly maintained turbine should last over 20 years and the expected life of a storage battery should be between 6 and 10 years.



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Alan J Hartley