Wind turbines are becoming more popular in residential settings because of the reduced cost of electricity and many people’s wish to reduce their carbon footprint. provided the house is in a sufficiently windy location being one of them; if the upfront costs, location and planning requirements can be sorted, then small domestic wind turbines can be a cost-effective method to generate clean, renewable electricity for the home.
Wind turbines for residential properties come under the general heading of Microgeneration which is the small-scale generation of electricity and heat by individual households, small businesses and communities as alternatives to centralised power connected to the national grid.

Domestic wind turbines work on the simple principle where the wind turns the blades of the turbine and the turning of the blades causes the axis to rotate. The axis is connected to a generator, so as it turns it produces electricity in the form of Direct Current (DC). In order for that electricity to be used in the property an inverter is attached to the system which then converts the (DC) into Alternating Current (AC) electricity.

There are three main types of domestic wind turbines

    • Roof Mounted
    • Stand Alone
    • Micro Domestic

Roof Mounted Domestic Turbines

Roof Mounted turbines with a suitable wind source are usually 1KW-2.5kW in size and only 1 is allowed per house. Planning requirements may vary accoridng to the part of the country and the mortgage lender and insurance provider should be notified. Usually they are only allowed on detached properties and often prohibited on listed buildings or in conservation areas.

In Scotland particularly, they need to be in a detached house and be surrounded by other detached houses in the vicinity. A single turbine is considered as permitted development but if the property already has an air source heat pump installed planning permission is required.

Including the blades, no part of the turbine should protrude more than 3 metres above the highest part of the chimney and the overall height of the house plus the wind turbine should not exceed 15m.

The distance between the ground and the lowest part of the wind turbine needs to exceed 5m and a minimum of 5m needs to be between the turbine and the boundary of the property. The swept area of a building mounted wind turbine cannot exceed 3.8m2.

Wind Speed requirement
An average annual wind speed of about 14mph on a 1.5kw wind turbine will meet the needs of a home requiring 300kwh per month. The more accurate figures would be provided by the surveyor in conjunction with the manufacturer of the equipment in relation to the area in which the property is located.

Lifespan of wind turbines
Wind turbines will usually work efficiently for at least 20 years, but with regular maintenance and low-cost repairs, they can be expected to last for a considerably longer period.

As with any type of renewable energy equipment, the cost of roof-mounted wind turbines will vary depending on manufacturer, size and type and installation costs. Currently however, a roof mounted turbine can be bought for around £2,000 for something producing up to 2.5kW.

The relatively weak but characteristic noise of wind turbines is generated mainly by the movement of the blades through the air. This produces a swishing sound in time with the rotation of the blades, as well as noise from the turbine machinery.

Financial Benefits
There will be an immediate reduction in the cost of your electricity from the grid as you will be producing free electricity for your own use. The second benefit will be that any surplus electricity that you produce can be exported to the grid which will earn you a tariff paid by the network to whom you are connected at the rate prevailing at that time.
Installing a battery to store any excess power means that you are benefitting from more ‘free’ electricity which might make more financial sense than earning the export tariff then having to buy that same electricity at a somewhat higher price than the one at which you sold it in the first place.

Stand Alone Domestic Wind Turbines

Standalone wind turbines, also called Free-Standing or Pole-Mounted, are more effective than roof mounted ones and best placed on top of a hill, away from obstructions and turbulence. They are more likely to generate planning permission objections, so generally they are not suited to urban areas.

Standalone turbines cost between £9,900 and £19,000 for a 2.5kW system, while a 6kW version is likely to be between £21,000 and £30,000.

In Scotland in particular:

While building-mounted wind turbines require planning permission in Scotland, standalone turbines do not, providing they meet the following criteria:

  • It is the only wind turbine within the property.
  • It is situated more than 100m from the next-door neighbour.
  • It does not sit on a world heritage site, on scientific research land, is considerably near a listed building or is near land for archaeological purposes.

The general rules for a stand-alone wind turbine are that:

  • It must comply with the MCS planning standards.
  • The installation must not be sited on safeguarded land.
  • One turbine is considered a permitted development and the property must not have an Air Source Heat Pump installed already. Otherwise, you need to ask for planning permission.
  • The highest part of the wind turbine blade must not exceed 11.1 metres.
  • The distance between the ground and the lowest part of the wind turbine blade needs to exceed 5m.
  • The turbine’s height plus 10% is the distance that the wind turbine needs to be from the boundary of your property.
  • The swept area of the wind turbine cannot exceed 3.8m2.
  • If you live in a conservation area/world heritage site, the closest part of the wind turbine needs to be further away from any highways than the closest part of the house.
  • Permitted development rights are not applicable for an installation on a listed building or on a building in a conservation area/world heritage site
  • The blades cannot be coated in a reflective material.
  • When no longer needed for Microgeneration, the wind turbines should be removed as soon as practically possible.

Micro Domestic Turbines

In recent years mini wind turbines have become more and more popular, located on the top of a 5 meter pole at the bottom of a garden or near farmhouses and barns and generating a few kilowatts of electricity. They are particularly useful in off-grid situations where a property needs to be energy self-sufficient. The DC electricity generated is stored in battery banks and then processed through inverters to make AC electricity for use in normal household appliances.

Because of the noise they generate, they tend not to be suitable for use in urban areas, together with the problem of lower average wind speed. That being said, recently Micro Wind Turbines have started appearing across urban areas of the country. These are designed to supplement national grid electricity and therefore reduce the overall electricity bill for their owners. Electricity generation is limited to just a few hundred watts at best which is enough to power energy efficient light bulbs throughout a typical home on a windy day.

Advances in engineering have resulted in much quieter wind turbines with greatly reduced vibration. These are designed to be fitted on rooftops and on the gable ends of properties. Factors such as possible complaints about noise from neighbours plus one of the walls in the property vibrating have to be taken into account. But considering that a small system can be fully fitted for about £1000, micro-wind turbines are likely to continue to grow in popularity.


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