Micro Wind

Wind turbines mounted on town houses like David Cameron’s often do not provide a great deal of electricity because of a lack of wind in urban areas, according to research into the new technology.

Well, yes, we know this.

Manufacturers claim some of the new micro turbines can provide 30 per cent of a household’s electricity needs. However, the most wide-ranging study to be carried out in the UK so far found that on average the wind turbines only generate 214 watt hours per day, including when the turbine is switched off for maintenance or due to failure. This is enough electricity to power four low energy lightbulbs for a day or less than five per cent of a household’s daily electricity needs.

Actually, it\’s worse than this. Some disagree of course:

But Alex Murley, of the British Wind Energy Association, said small and micro wind turbines could provide more than 10 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs if sited correctly.

He said: “Although this may be the first trial to look at micro-wind turbines within urban environments, low samples sizes, extremely poor sighting and patchy data renders the trial unrepresentative of the wider sector. Clearly micro-wind turbines do not work everywhere, but the UK is the windiest country in Europe, and there are literally millions of excellent sites waiting for sensible application of this successful technology – If correctly sited and installed, micro-wind turbines can cut bills, cut carbon and deliver real economic, and environment benefits.”

Well, perhaps, if they are indeed correctly sited. Badly sited ones, like those in just about any urban area of the country, actually produce so little electricity that there are more emissions from their manufacture than are saved from their operation.

Increasing emissions, whatever one\’s thoughts on climate change, really don\’t sound like a method of combatting said climate change.

5 comments on “Micro Wind

  1. The Telegraph article states: “However, the most wide-ranging study to be carried out in the UK so far found that on average the wind turbines only generate 214 watt hours per day, including when the turbine is switched off for maintenance or due to failure. This is enough electricity to power four low energy lightbulbs for a day or less than five per cent of a household’s daily electricity needs.”

    I certainly do not want to knock criticism concerning the inadequacy and lack of cost-effectiveness of household wind turbines. However, I’m also struggling to match these figures with my understanding.

    Firstly 214 Watt-hours per day is equivalent to about a continuous 9 Watts. A typical small CFL (compact flourescent light) requires 11 Watts (equivalent illumination to a 60W incandescent bulb); thus the 214Wh would run 4 such bulbs for around just 4.9 hours: rather short for a day.

    Next, I understand typical household electricity consumption is around 1kW continuous average (24kWh/day). [My house uses around twice this, but is occupied and heated 24/7 and also houses a small business with additional electricity consumption.] Now 214Wh is less than 1% of 24kWh, so from where comes the somewhat generous 5%?

    Does anyone have corrections to my basis figures or calculations, or a plausible interpretation of a simple error in the Telegraph article or its source? [Note: the common confusion between continuous Watts and Watt-hours per day (a factor of 24) does not seem to expain the above difference.]

    Best regards

  2. I’ve tried to track down the original figures to see how much the undoubtedly airheaded environmental correspondent has garbled, since she’s certain to not know the difference between a watt and a watt hour. The trail leads here to the project by some trough-snouters called Encraft, but sadly they were too busy gadding around their presentation of results open day at great carbon-generating cost to just post said results on their website.

    Whether it’s supposed to be 214 watt hours per day, or 214W continuous we cannot know. All we can be certain of is that the journalist won’t have had a fucking clue what a Watt is. Presumably the article is just a paraphrasing of whatever she was handed at the open day.

  3. Nigel, I am equally puzzled. Here in SA which is admittedly warmer than the UK, but without natural gas for cooking and hot water, the Remittance Household consumes about 14 kWh per day.

    This is definately a case of a scientifically challenged journo reporting on things she knows not what of.

  4. For what it’s worth, the full report of the Encraft Warwick Wind trials was in fact available on-line on 13th January 2009, the same day as the presentation of the report to a seminar audience of consumers, manufacturers, stake-holders and academics. For a full copy of the report and an account of the origins and execution of the year-long trial, visit http://www.encraft.co.uk or http://www.warwickwindtrials.org.uk. You may after that share my view that Ian B’s characterisation of Encraft as ‘trough snouters’ is unfair and unreasonable as well as unnecessary.

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