Domestic wind turbines: Are they worth installing?

Harness the power of the wind with green wind turbines

More than 10,000 wind turbines are now running onshore and offshore around the UK, and by 2030, the government expects to be generating one-third of its energy from wind.

Wind power is flourishing in the UK, with our stretching coastlines creating an ideal geographic location to harness it. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently reported that the energy share generated by renewable electricity increased to 36.9 per cent in 2019, reaching a record high of 119 TWh electricity generated from renewable sources. In Scotland alone, wind turbines generated almost twice the entire country's domestic power needs during the first half of 2019.

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It's not just large-scale wind farms that exist, though. It's also possible to generate electricity at home with small-scale wind turbines on your land or attached to your building, allowing you to harness the power of the wind yourself.

With wind power taking off at a faster rate than ever before, will a domestic wind turbine be the right option for your home?

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How wind energy works

Wind is the movement of air, caused by air pressure changes in the atmosphere. As the sun heats parts of the earth, it causes hot air to rise, leaving cool air to move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. This is otherwise known as wind.

Because the sun shines, the wind blows. This means that we'll always have wind, as long as the sun shines, and even though we harness the power of the wind for energy, it won't run out. Energy sources that replenish naturally by themselves are known as renewables.

The wind has been a power source since ancient travellers captured the wind in their sails to propel ships across the seas. Windmills have also been used by farmers to pump water and to grind grains.

More recently, we have used wind energy to generate electricity using turbines. Gusts of wind force the turbine's blades to spin, which connects to a generator to produce electricity.

Using the power of the wind to generate your household or business electricity will allow you to run your appliances on renewable energy. What's more, if you generate more electricity than you need, you can sell excess energy back to the grid through the feed-in tariff scheme.

Choosing renewable energy for your home

It's important to think realistically about what is appropriate for your home, as renewable energy technologies aren't well suited for every household.

Some wind turbines can be as tall as a 20-story building with three 60-meter blades, but smaller turbines can be installed on your land or attached to your building to produce electricity for your home or to help you power a small business.

However, you do still need adequate outdoor space and enough wind for your turbine to work effectively. Domestic wind power is most appropriate for rural and exposed homes in the UK.

Setting up your domestic wind turbine also requires an upfront investment. Energy Saving Trust reports that a typical 6kW wind turbine costs between £23,000 to £34,000.

Types of domestic wind turbines

The two main types of domestic wind turbine are available:

  1. Pole-mounted turbines.
  2. These are typically the larger option of the two. Pole-mounted turbines are free-standing units that work best in positions that are well exposed to the wind. An exposed location will allow you to take advantage of high wind speeds that spin the blades of your turbines faster to generate more kinetic energy and, in turn, more electricity.

  3. Building-mounted turbines.
  4. These are smaller than their pole-mounted counterparts. Mounted on top of buildings, these turbines require less space for installation but the airflow to these turbines can be limited if there are nearby obstructions, which means they usually operate at a comparatively lower efficiency.

The maximum power output that domestic pole-mounted wind turbines are capable of typically ranges from 2kW to 6kW, whereas building-mounted turbines usually have a capacity for generating 0.5kW to 2kW of energy.

Both pole-mounted and building-mounted turbines can be installed on domestic properties, and although larger pole-mounted turbines produce more kilowatts of electricity, they require a much more significant investment to install.

The cost of installing wind turbines

Whether you choose to proceed with a pole-mounted wind turbine or a building-mounted wind turbine will usually depend on your space and, critically, your finances.

The cost of installing a pole-mounted turbine is far more expensive than building-mounted, so think carefully about your budget. Pole-mounted turbines will generate more electricity and potentially help you save more on your energy bills, but you'll have to pay between £23,000 and £34,000 to install a 6kW turbine.

It's a more substantial investment to choose pole-mounted turbines, but you'll also benefit from their efficiency and increased capacity in the longer term.

In comparison, you can install a 1kW building-mounted turbine on to your roof for as little as £3,000. This is a better option for those with less outdoor space but will produce significantly less energy, and there's a risk that you might not make enough to cover your investment.

Before you move forward with your plans to install a wind turbine, you should investigate the wind speeds in your area. Domestic wind turbines aren't necessarily cost-effective for every home. You can install a wind gauge to monitor the speed of the wind in your location, or find out the average wind speed in your area using an online calculator.

Another consideration is maintenance costs. Well-maintained turbines generally last for more than 20 years, but replacing parts during this time may cost up to £2,000, and it will cost £100 to £200 for maintenance checks every few years.

Off-grid systems also require batteries to store electricity, which will need replacing every 6 to 10 years, and back-up generators will have additional costs for both fuel and maintenance.

The benefits of domestic wind turbines

  1. You can do your part for the environment
  2. Wind power turbines are an attractive option for generating environmentally friendly energy for your home.

    Wind is an unlimited resource that replenishes naturally and does not damage the environment. Therefore, you are guaranteed that electricity created through your wind turbines won't produce any waste, pollutants or carbon emissions, making it entirely clean energy.

    Houses with wind turbines are thought to save almost 5 tonnes of carbon emissions compared to houses without them, each year. This makes wind turbine installation a good choice for energy-conscious individuals who are committed to reducing their impact on the environment.

  3. You can lower your energy bills

Wind is free and you can harness as much of it as possible. Once you've made your investment by installing your turbine, you will have much lower energy bills. Some households won't need to pay anything else for electricity, providing their wind turbine is in an exposed location.

If you produce more energy than you need, you could even generate another stream of income through the UK Government's feed-in tariffs. Through the feed-in tariff scheme, you will be eligible to export any excess green electricity you produce back to the grid, and you'll be paid to do so.

According to Energy Saving Trust, a well-sited 6kW pole-mounted turbine could save you around £250 a year on electricity bills and earn about £440 per year in payments.

Are domestic wind turbines cost-effective?

Wind turbines won't be cost-effective for every home. Much of this depends on how exposed the planned location for your turbine is and how windy the area is.

To generate a profitable amount of energy, you'll need a wind speed of around six metres per second. However, not many locations in the UK regularly reach this speed.

Even if you install the most powerful domestic pole-mounted system, there's no guarantee that you'll break even on your investment. Often obstructed by other buildings, trees and hills, roof-mounted turbines are even less likely to access the required wind energy to become cost-effective.

Combining installation costs, maintenance fees, insurance and the price for the technology you'll need to convert wind into electricity, domestic wind turbines pose a far riskier venture than other domestic renewables like solar panels, which offer a more predictable energy source.

It's generally only in remote, windy settings with few nearby obstructions that you will find the benefits of installing a residential wind turbine outweigh the costs.

Find a green energy supplier

Spending thousands of pounds on a wind turbine for your home is a significant investment, so it's a good idea to investigate this thoroughly with an expert before you commit.

In the meantime, you can compare renewable energy deals from the most trusted green energy suppliers using our free online comparison tool.

Our comparison generates provider ratings and helpful context to ensure you can make an informed decision about each supplier and potential contract easily.

Once you've made your choice, you can switch to an environmentally-friendly energy tariff within a matter of minutes and you'll start receiving your new, clean energy supply within a few weeks.