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Wind power has been used by man for centuries, initially used by windmills to mill flour. Modern wind generators and home wind power turbines are capable of supplying some of our energy needs. The wind turns the blades, which in turn provide the force to rotate a turbine.

Wind turbines work best in areas where average wind speed is above 10mph. Wind turbines have drawn a lot of criticism from various organisations. Many complain about them being an eyesore and noisy, and some claim them to be ineffective. Most urban sites are not windy enough to pay back the 'embedded energy' of a small system. Assessment of location must be done by an independent surveyor, not the suppliers. Careful research is essential before purchase, or you will be increasing the problem rather than finding a solution.

However if suitable, the 'free' energy they produce is not to be sniffed at. The nature of wind power means it can never be the sole source of electricity generation as winds fluctuate (consequently so does the power output) but any energy produced is completely zero carbon when generated.

Small scale turbines are in development and whilst these may not be suited to be placed onto the roof of every home they have proven ideal for small business', schools and other organisations. Large buildings find them successful in reducing the amount of externally required power. The power generated can also be sold back to power grids to further improve cost reduction.

DIY Wind Generator and Turbine

DIY VAWT (Vertical Axis Wind Turbines) and HAWT (Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines) plans are available and quite a DIY job if you are skilled and enthusiastic. Power calculations need to be done properly to make sure you don't spend a long time and lots of money building a turbine that will never generate enough power due to poor wind position or other factors. They are also quite noisy so be careful of neighbors. There are also issues around collapse and damage, so make sure proper structural engineer's calculations are done.

Planning permission will be needed for most forms of turbine however they are often looked upon favourably especially for small business uses. Small roof mounted systems can be installed for 1200GBP with larger mast mounted systems costing between 10,000 and 25,000GBP and capable of producing 2 - 6 kWh.

John Hutton, UK business secretary, has announced plans to increase Britain's production of electricity from wind. By 2020 the UK will produce 33 gigawatts (GW) from wind power, mainly from offshore turbines, capable of powering 25million homes. There is also talk of building a wave power barrier across the Severn at astronomical cost. This might just be greenwash.

Renewable Energy Building DIY Book cover