Wednesday 24th July 2024

Could you save money with home wind power?

Nick Daws explores how to generate home electricity with wind power, comparing building-mounted and pole-mounted turbines, and their costs.

For both environmental and financial reasons, more of us than ever are looking into ways of generating electricity from home, and home wind power is now a possible option

In a previous article for Mouthy Money I discussed solar PV panels. These are by a distance the most popular home generating option in the UK, typically nowadays in conjunction with battery energy storage systems

But another possibility is home wind power. The UK has no shortage of this natural resource. And wind can be a good source of energy at times when solar is limited or unavailable, e.g. in the winter or at night.

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The most popular types of domestic wind turbine in the UK are building-mounted and pole-mounted. Building-mounted turbines are cheaper but generate less electricity. Pole (or tower) mounted models are more expensive (see below), but due to their greater output can actually pay for themselves faster [source]. 

But before you set your sights on harnessing home wind power, it’s essential to understand the feasibility and financial implications of doing this. 

Understanding home wind power

Domestic wind turbines, also known as small-scale or residential wind turbines, are designed to generate electricity for individual homes or small businesses. 

These turbines typically range from a few feet (in the case of building-mounted models) to 100 feet in height. They can be installed on rooftops or standalone poles, depending on the available space and local rules and regulations.

The principle behind wind turbines is simple: wind turns the turbine’s blades, which then rotate a generator to produce electricity. The amount of electricity generated depends on factors such as wind speed, turbine size, and efficiency.

Potential benefits

Clearly the main allure of domestic wind turbines is the potential for cost savings on electricity bills. 

By generating your own electricity, you can reduce reliance on traditional energy providers and potentially lower your costs. And in some cases excess electricity generated by the turbine can be sold back to the grid, providing additional savings or even income via the Government’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme. The extent of these savings depends on various factors, however, including:

Wind strength: The viability of a wind turbine hinges on the availability of consistent and sufficiently strong winds. Areas with higher average wind speeds, such as beside the coast or on open land, are more suitable for wind energy generation. Conversely, homes in built-up areas or near tall trees are less likely to be suitable. As a rough guide, if the average wind speed in your area is under 5 metres per second, a wind turbine isn’t likely to be worthwhile [source].

Initial investment: Installing a wind turbine involves significant up-front costs, including the purchase of the turbine itself, installation and cabling, and any necessary permissions. These costs can vary considerably depending on the size and type of turbine – from as little as £2,000 for a rooftop one to £7,000-£70,000 for a freestanding model. As with solar panels, you will also need an inverter to change the DC power generated by the turbine to the AC used in UK homes.

Maintenance and repairs: Like any mechanical system, wind turbines require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Maintenance costs should be factored into the overall financial equation.

Energy efficiency: The efficiency of the turbine and the electrical systems associated with it will influence the amount of electricity generated and, consequently, the potential savings.

Considerations and challenges

Before embarking on any domestic wind turbine project, various considerations and challenges must be addressed.

Location: Assessing the local wind resources is crucial. Conducting a thorough wind study or consulting with experts can help determine whether your location is suitable for wind-energy generation.

Space and aesthetics: Wind turbines, especially larger ones, require ample space and may impact the aesthetic appeal of your property. Consider how a turbine installation might affect your surroundings and neighbours.

Product lifespan: Wind turbines have a typical lifespan of twenty years. That is somewhat less than solar PV panels, which have a useful lifespan of 25 years or more.

Return on investment (ROI): Calculate the expected ROI based on your specific circumstances, including energy usage patterns, local incentives, and available financing options. While savings may accrue over time, it’s essential to realistically assess the payback period.

Battery integration: You will probably want the electricity from your wind turbine to charge a home storage battery, so it can be saved for when you need it rather than going to waste. 

Ideally this would be combined with solar PV, so the panels charge the batteries when the sun is shining and the wind does the same at other times, e.g. at night. Unfortunately most home storage batteries don’t offer this dual functionality at the moment, though that may come in time.

Planning permission

It isn’t always necessary to seek planning permission for domestic wind turbines, but they do need to conform to strict guidelines. In England, wind turbines can be classed as permitted development if:

  • There are no other wind turbines in the area or an air source heat pump currently on the property.
  • The bottom of the turbine’s blades is at least 5 metres from the ground.
  • The turbine isn’t in a conservation area, World Heritage site, or on the grounds of a listed building.

In Scotland, planning permission won’t be required if:

  • The wind turbine is the only one on the property.
  • The turbine is more than 100 metres from another property’s boundaries.
  • The turbine isn’t located in a conservation area, World Heritage site, or on the grounds of a listed building.

In Wales and Northern Ireland you’ll need planning permission for any wind turbine (domestic or otherwise). For installations in these parts of the UK, therefore, you will always need to submit a planning application [source].

  • In addition, to benefit from financial incentives such as the Smart Export Guarantee, your wind turbine must be MCS (MIcrogeneration Certification Scheme) certified, and installed by an MCS-accredited installer.

The Ripple option

If a domestic wind turbine isn’t suitable for you, another interesting possibility is offered by a company called Ripple Energy. This is a pioneering platform that allows individuals and businesses to own part of a large-scale UK wind farm and have the electricity it generates supplied to their homes via the grid. Here’s how it works.

Shared ownership: With Ripple, you can buy a share of a renewable energy project managed by a co-operative. This co-operative is responsible for building and operating the wind farm.

One-time cost: You pay a one-time fee for your share of the construction. Ripple then builds the wind farm, and you become a co-owner.

Clean energy supply: Your energy supplier purchases the electricity generated by the wind farm and supplies it to your home through the grid. As a result, you get access to green electricity while stabilising your bills for the lifespan of the project. This should protect you from price spikes and reduce your electricity costs. 

Of course, as with any investment, there are some risks involved that you will need to weigh up carefully before deciding whether to proceed.

For further details, check out the Ripple Energy website.

Disclosure: I recently invested in a Scottish wind farm myself via Ripple.

Closing thoughts

Installing a domestic wind turbine can be a proactive step towards reducing your carbon footprint and lowering your energy costs. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, however. 

Careful consideration of various factors is required to ascertain whether it’s viable for your situation. Conducting thorough research, consulting with experts, and weighing up the costs and benefits are essential in order to make an informed decision about harnessing the power of the wind for your energy needs.

As always, if you have any comments about this article, please do leave them below.

Nick Daws writes for Pounds and Sense, a UK personal finance blog aimed especially (though not exclusively) at over-fifties.

Photo credits: Pexels

Nick Daws

Mouthy Blogger

Nick Daws is a semi-retired freelance writer and editor. He is the author of over 30 non-fiction books, including Start Your Own Home-Based Business and The Internet for Writers. He lives in Burntwood, Staffordshire, where he has been running his personal finance blog at Poundsandsense.com for over seven years.

  1. If installing a wind turbine at home be very wary of salespersons claims for energy production. Wind turbines need a flow of clean non turbulent air to function well, (hence commercial installations use tree free hilltop locations). Buildings, trees etc, scramble the air enormously reducing the effectiveness of the turbine making them unsuitable for urban environments, producing barely enough to power a light bulb!
    Solar panels are virtually maintenance free and are more user friendly.
    I have had both so speak with some experience.

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