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Wind Power

We had a 6kW Eoltec SCIROCCO turbine installed in January 2009. This produces almost the same amount of energy as we used prior to the heat pump installation - when we generate more electricity than we use the extra is sold back to the grid. We get paid 'Feed in Tariffs' for every kWh we produce even if we use it ourselves. These are usually 9p for existing turbine owners but more for new ones. See table for the current rates here.  We are with Ecotricity and they are paying 16p per KW generated and 3.2p for export. Much the best deal around. We currently use about 4500kW a year and have produced about 23000 kW in 4 years 9 months. It is on a 12m tower and has 3m blades although routinely now they are on 18m towers. This was not an option when we went through planning.
The inverter which converts direct current to alternating current is in our utility room and when the turbine is going it provides heat as a by product which is the equivalent of one radiator, which is often enough not to turn the heating on on slightly cool days and helps dry our washing.

We also have a  fan which extracts the moisture but retains the heat in this room, much cheaper to run than a tumble drier and producing a lot less carbon dioxide.

We used a company called Bryan Rendall Electrical based in Orkney. They took 2 days to lay the 1.5 x 1.5 x 1m cube of concrete and foundations and lay the cable through the garden up into and through the attic. They then had to wait 3 weeks for the concrete to set, then took 2 1/2 days to connect it to the grid and our meter. We got a grant for £4000. The rest of the £25000 will probably take about 15 years to pay back if it performs as it is at the moment in reduced fuel bills but if electricity prices rise this will be shorter. See grants section for funding.

The turbine needs very little maintenance. It is fully automatic in operation. It needs to be serviced once a year. This involves winching it down flat and lubricating it. We initially contemplated doing this ourselves but so far have not done so. It takes 2 men a couple of hours and a fair bit of equipment is needed, but once purchased could be used repeatedly. When planning a turbine like this you do need to make sure there is enough space to do this. In our case we have made a gate in the fence and it goes down into our neighbour's field, so the neighbour had to be agreeable to this.

Life expectancy
The turbine is expected to last 25 years. Some of the installation could presumably be used again at the end of this time, but manufacturers would not be able to say any longer than this. Many solar panels installed in the 60s are still going strong, even though they were only supposed to last 25 years.

The noise of the turbine obviously varies depending on how fast it is going but is remarkably quiet. It is said to be less than 40dBA. You can stand underneath it when it is going full pelt quite comfortably. It is 3 meters from the nearest point of the house. The sound drops quite rappidly as you move away from it and it is only audible on the nearest side of the house or in the garden. The children were wakened for a couple of nights after installation as their bedrooms are nearest but it is no noisier than fairly quiet traffic and they quickly got used to it. If there is a gale the wind noise masks the increase volume of the turbine.

Selling electricity back to the grid
Currently all companies are offering the same rate for exported electricity in our case this is 3.2p per kWh (but this depends on the type of installation and when it was installed). This is in addition to the feed in tariff payments per kW generated even if you use it yourself. We changed to Ecotricity because they are committed to actually building renewable capacity with profits rather than buying power from other people's renewables.

Bird Damage
We have so far had no problems. Birds tend to see large moving objects. They have good eye-sight. We have had far more problems with birds flying into windows (at least 4 in the last 3 years) and the cat (necessary to keep the mouse population in check but does take the occasional bird). The RSPB are now largely in favour of wind turbines in the right place as they recognise that the effects of global warming on bird populations is far worse. There are only really any problems with specific turbines on migratory routes and often moving one specific large turbine solves the problem. I think smaller scale turbines are much less of an issue.

Safety in High Winds
The Eoltec turbine automatically adjusts itself to the wind speed so once it has got up to 6kW maximum output, if the wind increases it just alters so it is at a different angle to the wind and carries on going. It keeps going up to very high wind speeds before it cuts out. See their website for further information.

Planning Permission
Wind turbines generally need planning permission. Ours went through fairly quickly and there were no objections. They did require the plans to be a certain scale and were very fussy about this.

Grid Connection
This is likely to be an additional fee but should be included in the original estimate. Ours was about £250 which was less than predicted.