CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech-focused
website
 in the world. Subscribe today!


Clean Power urban windmill

Published on August 7th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

53

New Study Says City-Based Rooftop Wind Power Doesn’t Pay Off

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

August 7th, 2008 by
 

urban windmill

A new study put out by the UK’s Carbon Trust reports that domestic windmills in urban locations are actually net carbon emitters, as more energy goes into their production, shipping, and maintenance than is saved by their use.

Additionally, the study notes that home wind power could only provide .4% of UK electricity consumption and will only save .6 million tons of carbon dioxide. For reference, the Carbon Trust says that 1.5 TWh could be produced annually using urban windmills—and the UK used 2,700 TWh of energy in 2006.

The reason why urban windmills aren’t useful is fairly simple. The Carbon Trust explains that small wind turbines require open, exposed locations that have high wind speeds. These locations are usually found in rural areas, which can produce nine times more wind energy than urban areas. Since the output from urban windmills is low, the cost of the resulting energy ends up being high.

But while wind energy may not be the way to go in cities, that doesn’t mean that urban homes can’t make use of alternative energies. Solar power is becoming increasingly popular, and plenty of cities around the world get more than enough sunshine to utilize it effectively.

Additionally, transmission lines can deliver wind power from rural areas to urban areas. So if you’re really stuck on powering your apartment or townhouse with wind, the future isn’t entirely bleak.

More Posts on Wind Power:

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

Print Friendly

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

Tags: , , , ,


About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



  • R Livingston
  • Uncle B

    After the next crash, and as we pull away from the Great Hulking American Neanderthals “American Dream” lifestyle and adopt survivability, sustainability, and Earth Ark notions and super-insulations, passive solar heating, solar power, geo-thermal sciences, and a host of space age technologies to surviving on much less, even the seemingly small, at current consumption rates, power available from Wind Turbines will appear as plenty to the enlightened ones! Even computers are taking less and less power, cell phone are battery and solar repeater operated, lighting going LED, Street lamps obsoleting with electronic detection methods, microwave cooking in daily use by most, Electric bikes, and three wheelers charging when the getting is good, to soak up excesses, increase efficiencies, ballast a whimsical producer. The very fabric, the base notions of the current society will be re-worked, questioned, discarded, revamped by a wiser smaller brighter faster, more adaptable folk, the survivors as we watch the Great hulking American Neanderthals in death struggle to maintain an unsustainable status quo, and ending in extinction in a decade, this decade, much as unbelievable as was possible the demise of their favorite and unsustainable opponent the mighty U.S.S.R. and yet we hear their shrieks of agony echoing off the walls of Hell as the chasm closes over them, we stand at the cusp edge ourselves, and doubt our own fallibilities, and the Asian fact nudges us closer and closer to our fate.

  • Uncle B

    After the next crash, and as we pull away from the Great Hulking American Neanderthals “American Dream” lifestyle and adopt survivability, sustainability, and Earth Ark notions and super-insulations, passive solar heating, solar power, geo-thermal sciences, and a host of space age technologies to surviving on much less, even the seemingly small, at current consumption rates, power available from Wind Turbines will appear as plenty to the enlightened ones! Even computers are taking less and less power, cell phone are battery and solar repeater operated, lighting going LED, Street lamps obsoleting with electronic detection methods, microwave cooking in daily use by most, Electric bikes, and three wheelers charging when the getting is good, to soak up excesses, increase efficiencies, ballast a whimsical producer. The very fabric, the base notions of the current society will be re-worked, questioned, discarded, revamped by a wiser smaller brighter faster, more adaptable folk, the survivors as we watch the Great hulking American Neanderthals in death struggle to maintain an unsustainable status quo, and ending in extinction in a decade, this decade, much as unbelievable as was possible the demise of their favorite and unsustainable opponent the mighty U.S.S.R. and yet we hear their shrieks of agony echoing off the walls of Hell as the chasm closes over them, we stand at the cusp edge ourselves, and doubt our own fallibilities, and the Asian fact nudges us closer and closer to our fate.

  • home made wind generators

    Smart article=D Will definitely visit soon.

  • home made wind generators

    Smart article=D Will definitely visit soon.

  • BOB

    you are testing the wrong type of wind turbine. a sail either verticle or horizontal is the type needed for urban areas. they work at low wind speeds, and do not start to vibrate or get dangerous if the wind suddenly changes direction. change in wind direction has no effect on them, due to being more of sails mounted on a center post. there are some in use in Chicago.

  • BOB

    you are testing the wrong type of wind turbine. a sail either verticle or horizontal is the type needed for urban areas. they work at low wind speeds, and do not start to vibrate or get dangerous if the wind suddenly changes direction. change in wind direction has no effect on them, due to being more of sails mounted on a center post. there are some in use in Chicago.

  • Mike Clymer

    Check out Aerotecture International. I believe they may have the engineering creativity that has been lacking.

  • Mike Clymer

    Check out Aerotecture International. I believe they may have the engineering creativity that has been lacking.

  • http://docrubenstein@gmail.com David Rubenstein, Ph.D.

    What is the cost to install a Rooftop Wind Turbine? I live in Vista Redonda, a community of 60 homes outside of Santa Fe New Mexico. Wind gusts of 30-40 mph are quite common here.

    One of our community board members is studying alternative energy options. Do you have any specific information about the difficult to install, maintain, etc.

    Thanks for your great work!

    David Rubenstein, Ph.D.

  • Pingback: Nuclear Power - Conservative Forum

  • ielectalk

    Did anyone think of

  • ielectalk

    Did anyone think of

  • Pingback: The Strandbeests Cometh : CleanTechnica

  • http://www.westtel.net Charles

    I am so fed up with this carbon footprint crap!

  • http://www.westtel.net Charles

    I am so fed up with this carbon footprint crap!

  • pengo

    It’s true. Wind turbines are most effective when they’re really big, horizontal axis, and high above anything else, which means urban ones are far from ideal.

    I’m sure, however, that some well placed urban turbines will be net carbon savers. (yeah maybe I should read the report)

  • pengo

    It’s true. Wind turbines are most effective when they’re really big, horizontal axis, and high above anything else, which means urban ones are far from ideal.

    I’m sure, however, that some well placed urban turbines will be net carbon savers. (yeah maybe I should read the report)

  • David

    So, let me get this straight. A windmill running for 200 years produces a net gain in carbon emissions?

    I’m curious how they calculated this net gain, since it seems logical to me that the longer the windmill is active, the more net energy it would produce.

  • David

    So, let me get this straight. A windmill running for 200 years produces a net gain in carbon emissions?

    I’m curious how they calculated this net gain, since it seems logical to me that the longer the windmill is active, the more net energy it would produce.

  • Rick Cain

    Are they subtracting the carbon saved by NOT using standard coal-fired electricity?

    I thought so.

  • Rick Cain

    Are they subtracting the carbon saved by NOT using standard coal-fired electricity?

    I thought so.

  • Joe | A New Band A Day.com

    I’m sure in some, if not many urban places in the UK, the net result is a carbon emission, but if it works well in a windy place, it’s still a good thing. I’d have one if I was living near the sea, for example. Horses for courses.

  • pete

    From the description it appears that the calculation fails to take into account the energy source the domestic windmill replaces.

    It also appears to favor centralized production and distribution – thus keeping people paying the local gigantic gas and electric utility in perpetuity.

    The freedom gained, money saved, and money put to more useful endeavours than paying the electric company must also be taken into account.

  • pete

    From the description it appears that the calculation fails to take into account the energy source the domestic windmill replaces.

    It also appears to favor centralized production and distribution – thus keeping people paying the local gigantic gas and electric utility in perpetuity.

    The freedom gained, money saved, and money put to more useful endeavours than paying the electric company must also be taken into account.

  • http://www.misterinfo.de/users/erichansa erichansa

    Goes to show now everything works like you’d expect. You really have to crunch the numbers.

  • http://www.misterinfo.de/users/erichansa erichansa

    Goes to show now everything works like you’d expect. You really have to crunch the numbers.

  • lou

    If the study used the type of windmill shown in the picture – no wonder the out put was measly. That’s a pretty small windmill. There is some reluctance to windmills in suburban and urban landscapes cause of the noise, too. So I’m willing to say that urban windmills are not a priority. But i wouldn’t write them off quite yet. With improvements and higher energy costs they could possibly become more appealing.

  • lou

    If the study used the type of windmill shown in the picture – no wonder the out put was measly. That’s a pretty small windmill. There is some reluctance to windmills in suburban and urban landscapes cause of the noise, too. So I’m willing to say that urban windmills are not a priority. But i wouldn’t write them off quite yet. With improvements and higher energy costs they could possibly become more appealing.

  • Josh

    What about vertical turbines like Quiet Revolution?

    http://www.quietrevolution.co.uk/

    They run at lower speeds, can take wind from any direction and they’re gorgeous.

    I haven’t read it, but I also wonder if the study assumes that the turbines are produced at a great distance from the point of installation and therefore have a larger footprint? Like Clayton C. said – use wind where it’s appropriate. Thinking in universals is a petroleum mindset. Alternative energies are contingent – a much more biological model.

  • Josh

    What about vertical turbines like Quiet Revolution?

    http://www.quietrevolution.co.uk/

    They run at lower speeds, can take wind from any direction and they’re gorgeous.

    I haven’t read it, but I also wonder if the study assumes that the turbines are produced at a great distance from the point of installation and therefore have a larger footprint? Like Clayton C. said – use wind where it’s appropriate. Thinking in universals is a petroleum mindset. Alternative energies are contingent – a much more biological model.

  • Kevin

    It really depends on the end goal. Individual, rooftop turbines aren’t meant to replace the grid, but to supplement it, reducing grid usage by the home owner. Wind farms are definitely great, but take up a lot of space and aren’t economically feasible in areas lacking consistent wind.

    Also, solar typically gets paired with batteries which actually power the household. The cost of solar is still very expensive whereas wind is generally cheaper. Check out mariahpower.com — they are just starting production, but their product is only $5k and requires an average wind speed of 5 m/s (avg over 24x7x365) to be beneficial. There’s currently one out in front of the US Botanical Garden in DC…

    The technology just isn’t there yet to remove the grid from the equation for all people, so a great first step is reducing the grid dependency.

  • Kevin

    It really depends on the end goal. Individual, rooftop turbines aren’t meant to replace the grid, but to supplement it, reducing grid usage by the home owner. Wind farms are definitely great, but take up a lot of space and aren’t economically feasible in areas lacking consistent wind.

    Also, solar typically gets paired with batteries which actually power the household. The cost of solar is still very expensive whereas wind is generally cheaper. Check out mariahpower.com — they are just starting production, but their product is only $5k and requires an average wind speed of 5 m/s (avg over 24x7x365) to be beneficial. There’s currently one out in front of the US Botanical Garden in DC…

    The technology just isn’t there yet to remove the grid from the equation for all people, so a great first step is reducing the grid dependency.

  • http://cutesexyphilippines.blogspot.com/ pinay sexy

    we should love mother earth

  • http://cutesexyphilippines.blogspot.com/ pinay sexy

    we should love mother earth

  • leftfield

    “Solar power is becoming increasingly popular, and plenty of cities around the world get more than enough sunshine to utilize it effectively.”

    Yes, and lets all sit back and enjoy the show as new 3-dimensional zoning laws are applied to these cities that were developed without solar tech in mind. Someone in residential CA has already been forced to cut down redwood trees because they grew tall enough to block the sunlight from a neighbor’s solar panels

  • leftfield

    “Solar power is becoming increasingly popular, and plenty of cities around the world get more than enough sunshine to utilize it effectively.”

    Yes, and lets all sit back and enjoy the show as new 3-dimensional zoning laws are applied to these cities that were developed without solar tech in mind. Someone in residential CA has already been forced to cut down redwood trees because they grew tall enough to block the sunlight from a neighbor’s solar panels

  • Mike Caprio

    Ever seen a skyscraper? Ever felt the wind blowing up the sides of one of those puppies, or at the top of it?

    The problem is lack of engineering creativity, not a lack of wind. What if a series of small turbines ran all the way up the sides of a skyscraper, with a large turbine at the very top? Pool all the small energy gains together and trickle it up. I bet the whole building would be completely self sufficient.

  • Mike Caprio

    Ever seen a skyscraper? Ever felt the wind blowing up the sides of one of those puppies, or at the top of it?

    The problem is lack of engineering creativity, not a lack of wind. What if a series of small turbines ran all the way up the sides of a skyscraper, with a large turbine at the very top? Pool all the small energy gains together and trickle it up. I bet the whole building would be completely self sufficient.

  • dan

    Did anyone think of … Chicago?
    :)

  • dan

    Did anyone think of … Chicago?
    :)

  • Casey Dill

    This is not new. REAL scientists have been saying this for more than a decade. I have books from the 1970′s that say this. I did a report at RIT for a thermodynamics class on the subject.

    Bigger wind turbines are needed for overall useful output. But bigger is more dangerous. Also, the reverberations would shake a building.

    But starting to invest in a technology so it can grow it a good step.

  • Casey Dill

    This is not new. REAL scientists have been saying this for more than a decade. I have books from the 1970′s that say this. I did a report at RIT for a thermodynamics class on the subject.

    Bigger wind turbines are needed for overall useful output. But bigger is more dangerous. Also, the reverberations would shake a building.

    But starting to invest in a technology so it can grow it a good step.

  • WT

    Yeah, I’m not convinced solar is as big an opportunity here in the UK as it is elsewhere in the world, more’s the pity. And the missing tiles on my roof are testament to our potential wind energy. So, disappointing stuff.

  • WT

    Yeah, I’m not convinced solar is as big an opportunity here in the UK as it is elsewhere in the world, more’s the pity. And the missing tiles on my roof are testament to our potential wind energy. So, disappointing stuff.

  • Joe | A New Band A Day.com

    I’m sure in some, if not many urban places in the UK, the net result is a carbon emission, but if it works well in a windy place, it’s still a good thing. I’d have one if I was living near the sea, for example. Horses for courses.

  • Pingback: nerdd.net | news and opinion

  • Pingback: New Study Says Rooftop Wind Turbines Don’t Pay Off — A Just Life

  • Ariel Schwartz

    Good point on that one…I’ll revise it.

  • http://greenoptions.com/ Clayton C.

    Yeah, I’m not sure I buy this study. I guess I’m biased living in San Francisco, which is like a giant wind tunnel. Just like any piece of renewable tech, it’s going to work really well some places and not in others.

  • http://greenoptions.com/ Clayton C.

    Yeah, I’m not sure I buy this study. I guess I’m biased living in San Francisco, which is like a giant wind tunnel. Just like any piece of renewable tech, it’s going to work really well some places and not in others.

  • http://redgreenandblue.org Tim H.

    I don’t know if I’d call 1.5 terawatts “measly.” I wonder if this just looks at traditional horizontal-axis turbines or if it also looks at vertical axis turbines and the non-traditional horizontal ones (the ones that look like paddle-wheels).

    I suppose I could read it and find out.

  • http://redgreenandblue.org Tim H.

    I don’t know if I’d call 1.5 terawatts “measly.” I wonder if this just looks at traditional horizontal-axis turbines or if it also looks at vertical axis turbines and the non-traditional horizontal ones (the ones that look like paddle-wheels).

    I suppose I could read it and find out.

Back to Top ↑