Why can’t I source a compact wind turbine for my home?
Property Clinic: I can’t find a supplier in Ireland. Am I missing something obvious?
I’m surprised by the lack of availability of general information and professional support services for what appears to be a conspicuously under-utilised, abundant and natural resource. Photograph: iStock
I’ve just relocated from central Europe to a bungalow within throwing distance of the sea that requires a BER renovation. As Ireland is an island in the northern hemisphere it occurs to me that, inverse to my previous location, the wind is a far more abundant natural electrical power source than solar. However, I’m surprised by the lack of availability of general information and professional support services for what appears to be a conspicuously under-utilised, abundant and natural resource.
What I have learned so far is that a reliable, compact domestic turbine generating 0.3-0.4kw of power can be chimney or wall mounted with minimal visual or noise impact. However, I can’t find a supplier/installer in Ireland. Am I missing something obvious?
Any guidance to help me source, cost (in terms of ROI) and evaluate suitability, perhaps in tandem with a storage solution typically associated with the abundant solar counterpart would be greatly appreciated. Also, what options and planning overheads may be encountered along the pole or mast-mounted route?
Whatever your position on climate change it makes complete sense to reduce consumption of fossil fuels which are set to increase dramatically in price with carbon taxes over the coming years.
You are also correct in your assumption that the west coast of Ireland has great natural energy potential from wind, however, it’s a fickle and challenging resource to efficiently capture at micro scale suitable for a domestic house which is why there is a dearth of manufacturers providing affordable equipment and a number of early entrants to this market have failed, leaving buyers with expensive equipment that does not perform.
The fundamental reason is that the energy in the wind is proportional to wind speed and also requires steady wind to be efficiently captured. A wind turbine is rated at 12M/s but the average coastal windspeed will only average 6-8M/s so your 0.3w turbine will only give a fraction of that plated output and so not worthy of the investment after maintenance is considered. This aside from the fact that wind at low level will be directionally inconsistent reducing efficiency still further. The physics dictate that even if technology improves, energy capture from small wind turbines won’t get much better.
There are planning constraints for wind turbines with a selection of derogated allowances, however, under no circumstances would I attempt to attach even the smallest turbine to part of a house as there will certainly be insurance implications to restrict such practice.
The quantity of energy you require should firstly be assessed and reducing measures put in place before deciding on what system you might consider. Manufacturers will usually provide a schedule of potential annual output with some caveats.
Using these two sums you can decide how much energy you can save and the timescale for a return on your investment, don’t forget to allow for maintenance. You will be surprised to discover that in most cases the return is “never” so not worthy of the costs involved for a small-scale wind turbine, a larger installation of 5-6kW size might be more worthy but will increasingly come with other factors to consider such as visual flicker and noise due to their size.
The best solution for renewable energy has now switched to photovoltaic cells (PV) which are affordable, available and reliable. When coupled with a battery system, a modest, well insulated, low energy house might be able to meet much of its annual energy demands and there will be little or no maintenance issues.
Grants are available for PV systems but no longer for wind turbines which says a lot about why PV might be a better solution for you, and indeed all homes should consider the simple advantages to energy needs that PV’s can now provide.
There are many companies selling PV systems in Ireland but make sure you choose a certified supplier and installer from the SEAI list and do avail of the grants.
Your energy renovation consultant should be able to advise you on solutions, or, contact your local chartered building surveyor who can ensure appropriate energy saving measures won’t compromise your home or budget.
– Fergus Merriman
Fergus Merriman MSCSI MRICS EurBE, Chartered Building Surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland. scsi.ie