A wind turbine - financial sense?

Household wind turbines are becoming more popular, but can they make money?

For 'green' reasons, wind turbines are favoured by increasing numbers of people; electricity powered by the elements does not emit CO2, which is currently blamed for global warming. There are also financial motivations.

A household with a wind turbine can save money on bills and sell excess electricity back to the national grid.

To see if you can use wind, talk to neighbours and the council about planning issues. Find out about local windspeeds (use the BWEA website). If you decide it's for you - do you want a roof-mounted or a turbine in the garden? Look at what's on offer from several manufacturers before buying.

Consider buying an anemometer to assess the wind speeds in your location.In the event of your buying a wind turbine it could also be used to verify its performance.

Wind turbines are on the increase - 7,000 households have been given grants to get them installed.

A report by the Sustainable Consumption Roundtable foresees a future where households generate their electricity at home, using wind and solar - but only if the government bought panels and turbines in large quantities for public buildings, causing a lowering of prices. Up to now, you need specialist help to instal a turbine, a generator or a solar panel. Perhaps in a few years you'll be able to get one at the local DIY store and erect it yourself. (wishful thinking, perhaps!)

The BBC website describes a man who put up a 6kw turbine in his Essex garden in May, after overcoming 22 planning objections from neighbours about noise and visual impact. It is 11.5m high to the tip of the blade and cost 10,000, plus a 5,000 grant.

His motivation was both financial and environmental and he was inspired by seeing two wind turbines at the Ford plant where he works.

I wonder if he still speaks to his neighbours.

Details of his turbine: Blades will last 20 years, magnets in generator 20 years, steel tower and foundations 60 years, sited 15m from his house, 35m from neighbours, 11.5m high. No details supplied on rotor diameter, unfortunately.

The first few months haven't been as windy as he hoped. (did the the manufacturers exaggerate the output in the first place?) It's been generating electricity but not as much as expected. The turbine is connected to the grid and surplus electricity flows back into the grid.

He says the wind provided 80% of his electricity in the summer and he estimates it will heat the house through winter, saving him a total of 1,000 a year in heating bills. In 10 years, he hopes to have paid off his investment. He will still need to buy electricity from the grid.

Anecdotally, it seems that a household will see a reduction of between a quarter and a third in its annual electricity bill with a suitably-chosen wind turbine.

Solar panels can supplement wind to boost a home's renewable sources but some households claim to make a profit from wind alone, by generating surplus electricity so that the amount they sell to the Grid is greater than the amount they buy. This would obviously require a substantial turbine, a very energy-efficient house, and a windy location.

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