MICRO WIND

 

 

 

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Building-mounted micro wind turbines are supposed to generate electricity from wind striking the turbine.  However, the very low wind speeds and turbulent conditions in urban locations have delivered very poor results; often no useful power is produced.

Pro

In appropriate locations may generate around 500kWh annually

Virtually zero carbon electricity production

Con
Not suitable for the majority of UK homes
Intrusive vibration and may cause damage to building
May cause noise and visual nuisance to householder and neighbours

Verdict

Buildings-mounted products unlikely to deliver viable performance; free-standing products viable where wind resource is good

Not to be confused with free-standing mini wind turbines, which are dealt with separately.

Micro wind turbines have been used successfully for many years in applications such as boats, caravans and other places where no fixed electrical supply is available.  These generate DC power suitable for battery charging and the majority of portable appliances and tend to be located in windy areas, free from obstructions.  Recently attempts have been made to apply the same technology with turbines mounted on buildings (to save the cost of a free-standing tower) and using inverters to convert the DC to AC power suitable for connection to the consumer unit in a home (grid-parallel operation).  In this configuration the turbines are subject to the very turbulent wind conditions and low wind speeds typical of the urban environment, so that the turbines continually "hunt" to find what little wind is available and do not stabilise for long enough to produce a great deal of useful power.  In addition the requirement for power electronics to synchronise with the mains supply has led to additional inefficiencies, so much so that, in some cases, the inverter losses exceed the useful electricity generated.

The force of the wind on the turbine causes considerable noise and vibration which can be amplified by the structure and, in a few cases, the force exerted by the turbine on the building to which it is attached has led to structural damage to the wall.  One major supplier recently recalled their products after components became detached in strong winds.

Monitored trials to date have demonstrated poor performance in urban conditions.  Rural locations with free-standing products may perform better.

 

 

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Jeremy Harrison 2008  Last update 20th November 2008