Home wind generators
First up ... well, not quite ... after you have made your home as energy efficient as possible (ideas at Saving Energy) ... consider if you have a suitable plot for a wind turbine. If you live in an urban area, surrounded by lots of buildings or trees - air turbulence may reduce a turbine's power output. If your area is consistently windy - on the coast - on a hill - you are likely in a good position for wind power generator placement.
Consider also the implications for your local fauna - bats, birds and animals. There are links and more information at Wind and Wildlife to help with this.
Home wind power generators can be particularly effective when used in tandem with a solar photovoltaic system – and like solar electricity, excess energy may be fed back into the grid – you will need to investigate your local services on this.
If you are considering a community venture then make Energy4all your next port of call - it is a group with the express purpose to support co-operative schemes.
There will be small maintenance costs - an annual check- up required, but home wind power generators can last between 20-25years. The BWEA has a lot of very useful information as well as a briefing sheet.
Planning For a small scale wind turbine you may not need to apply for planning permission – but speak to your local authority first – if your wind power generator will be placed above the level of the apex of the roof permission may be required. It is expected that UK planning laws will become less restrictive - we may hear more about this when the Energy Policy is produced towards the end of 2006.
Funding20% of cost may be covered by a grant in the UK, US support varies by State - see Renewable Energy Funding - up to £10,000 outlay for a large garden turbine may be reduced to £8,000. A gable-end turbine could cost in the region of £2,000.
Best off is to get neighbours involved. Communities who work together can buy shares in a wind generator for the locality. In Oxfordshire Westmill Co-op raised £4.4m from over 2,000 people for the Westmil Windfarm - only £3.2m was needed. This will provide 5 turbines and a total of 6.5 megawatts of electricity.
Costs of wind power generator installation have reduced by 80% in the last 20 years – and there is every reason to believe that costs will continue to come down.
Real CostWe don't expect to get our money back when we install conventional heating - but people treat renewable energy differently siting the length of time to see a return as a reason not to take it up. The fact is that if money is not an object and you can raise the initial outlay, you are going to make your money back on savings from conventional heating costs. At today's prices it could take up to 20 years - realistically it will be much sooner as gas and electric prices are rising considerably.
Of course the financial assessment is only part of the picture for ecological and environmental benefits should also be costed in.
Approved installers For a list of approved installers try the Clear Skies programme website. BWEA's excellent site also has a list of suppliers of small turbines. Alternatively, you can consider putting a turbine together yourself - AirOption have a good selection of products to look through.
Homemade wind generators For those of us who prefer to recycle materials, or for whom cost is an issue it is still possible to create your own wind power generator very cheaply - for just an hour's labour you can finish three turbine rotor blades. This downloadable book explains how to find free forklift truck batteries and how to nurse them back to running order.
Written by someone who finds a great deal of satisfaction from making something from waste materials, the Poor Man's Guide to wind power and battery systems is a must for anyone who likes to do it themselves. Alternatively try Wind Power Workshop by Hugh Piggot, who is a specialist in the subject area, he has connections with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales - lives in Scotland and continues to run windmill workshops.
If you are interested to know in detail how wind power generators work you can go to howstuffworks … or you fancy having a go making a small scale turbine with the kids? Activities has a link to a Dti pdf document showing how to make a wind turbine.