In the UK, we’re used to seeing vast commercial wind farms out in the countryside, which generate clean and cost-effective energy on a large-scale. But can smaller residential wind turbines provide the same benefits? Here are some things you should know if you’re considering wind power for your home.

 

How do residential wind turbines work?

Wind turbines can benefit from net metering. This means they can connect to the traditional power grid to provide energy for the home, feeding any excess power back to the grid. In other words, the home can get its electricity from the grid when the wind isn’t blowing. Even in the UK—one of the windiest countries in Europe, especially Scotland—the wind doesn’t blow continuously, so a net metering setup is typically the most practical option.

Smaller rooftop turbines, on the other hand, are not connected to the grid. These off-grid systems, which are better suited to suburbs and cities, usually charge batteries to provide power to the home. As a result, they are usually not strong enough to supply the total amount of electricity required, so are best used as supplementary power source. This can mitigate reliance on traditional electricity, ultimately decreasing the homeowner’s utility bills.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Advantages of residential wind turbines:

  • Environmentally-friendly. Wind power causes absolutely no pollution. It is a sustainable and renewable source of energy, which will reduce your carbon footprint from the point of installation.
  • Reduces your energy bills. Once you’ve paid for your turbine, wind power is essentially free. And even a small rooftop turbine can significantly reduce electricity bills over the long term.
  • Mitigates future energy price rises. With prices on the rise, securing your own source of energy could help to mitigate the impact of future price hikes.
  • Produces additional income. You can sell unused energy back to the grid.
  • Finance options available. Special financing routes—such as the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs—enable homeowners to finance their installation through a special tax levied on their property. Over time, they repay the amount as a line item on their annual tax bill.

 

Disadvantages of residential wind turbines:

  • Inconsistent. Probably the biggest downside of wind power is that it is inconsistent and difficult to predict. In any location, the wind will not blow continuously at the same speed (hence why wind turbines are often net metered or used as a supplementary power source). Homeowners should do research on wind patterns at their chosen site prior to installation.
  • Noise. Wind turbines can be loud; this may not be an issue in a remote rural setting, but it poses more of a problem in more densely-populated residential areas.
  • Planning permission. Even small wind turbines, such as rooftop models, may be subject to planning permission—so researching local legislation is always recommended.
  • Space. A general guideline states that wind turbines need to be 30 feet higher than any object, including trees, within a 300-foot radius. Depending on the landscape and wind patterns of the location, this could be between 60 and 120 feet high. If you’ve got less than an acre of land, you may struggle to accommodate anything other than a rooftop model.
  • Up-front cost. Though wind power is free, the up-front cost of the turbine itself can be high—up to £3,000 for a rooftop model and anywhere from £9,000 to £30,000 for a pole-mounted model. And you’ll need to factor in maintenance costs over the years as well.

Which model should I choose?

The best way to generate wind energy is to install a free-standing pole-mounted turbine—in an area with sufficient space and a steady supply of wind—as these are the most effective models. However, the reality is that small rooftop models will be the most suitable option for most homeowners. But it’s important to remember that these units are not designed to provide 100% of your home’s power (it will more likely be between 25 to 50%) as they are simply not powerful enough. However, they are relatively inexpensive when compared to pole-mounted models, and they can significantly decrease your electricity bills. Another option is to partner a rooftop turbine with another source of renewable energy, like solar panels, to achieve even greater savings.

So, is it worth it?

Under the right circumstances, a residential wind turbine can be a practical and profitable energy solution for homeowners. You should research the right turbine for your location and understand that wind power probably won’t provide all the electricity you need—but it can certainly lower your electricity bills.

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