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Published on January 15th, 2009 | by Ariel Schwartz

22

Study Says Home Wind Turbines Are Often Useless

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January 15th, 2009 by
 

Before buying a small wind turbine for your roof, consider this: a recent British study claims that many home turbines generate only a fraction of what manufacturers promise, and some don’t even generate enough power to run their own electronics. The study, which was funded by the British Wind Energy Association, looked at turbines in four rural, 10 suburban, and 12 urban sites over the course of a year.

Many of the turbines in the study generated on average only 214 watt hours per day— less than five percent of a household’s electricity.

Unfortunately for many homeowners, obstructions like trees and buildings often get in the way of accessing substantial wind power. Turbines installed on buildings in exposed positions obviously have the best results.

Of course, there are still plenty of options for homeowners hoping to invest in renewable energy, including solar panels, which usually reap better results than home turbines.

Photo Credit: NREL

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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.



  • http://windenergy7.com/ Home Turbines

    You know that it may be more relevant to exclude the unsuccessful (attempts) from the group. The turbines pictured in the other article I read were tiny, misplaced, and (predictable failures). One picture was of a tiny home made turbine, on a wall, between two houses, behind a chimney! Four strikes.

    This is why you should not but a home wind turbine from someone who is not successful themselves. You should not buy one and attempt to know how to succeed by reading articles and books either. What it takes to make it work is not in any articles or books, those seem to all be written by folks who have never been really successful at home wind themselves.

    Additionally, for the small money spent on that junkyard turbine.. Is 5% for the next 30 years a bad thing? The one pictured in this article, a skystream, yes at that expense $15,000 installed 5% would be a disappointment. But that system lumped in with a junkyard turbine between two houses behind a fireplace.. What kind of study is that.. not.

    I get 30% on my WindEnergy7 system easly, but it’s wind/solar hybrid 3 turbine kit and is installed correctly, sited well, grid tied. It’s awesome.

  • http://windenergy7.com/ Home Turbines

    You know that it may be more relevant to exclude the unsuccessful (attempts) from the group. The turbines pictured in the other article I read were tiny, misplaced, and (predictable failures). One picture was of a tiny home made turbine, on a wall, between two houses, behind a chimney! Four strikes.

    This is why you should not but a home wind turbine from someone who is not successful themselves. You should not buy one and attempt to know how to succeed by reading articles and books either. What it takes to make it work is not in any articles or books, those seem to all be written by folks who have never been really successful at home wind themselves.

    Additionally, for the small money spent on that junkyard turbine.. Is 5% for the next 30 years a bad thing? The one pictured in this article, a skystream, yes at that expense $15,000 installed 5% would be a disappointment. But that system lumped in with a junkyard turbine between two houses behind a fireplace.. What kind of study is that.. not.

    I get 30% on my WindEnergy7 system easly, but it’s wind/solar hybrid 3 turbine kit and is installed correctly, sited well, grid tied. It’s awesome.

  • sailingsoul

    First let me said I have no real problem with this site or Ariel. Hay! To anyone who might have an issue with this type of reporting, consider the source. You’ve been reading and will continue to read this type of reporting your whole life, when dealing with general sourcing. This is what reporter/writers do, they know little about what they write, and when called on it their defense is “here my source, I just the messenger”. I would venture to say Ariel’s training is mostly in writing not wind, etc.. Her product would be just same no matter what the topic. Outrageous byline to lure the reader, then a pile of words to fill the space. Her job it to get you to come to this site, and return, period. It’s working. If you want real information don’t go to a media site. Controversy ? You got it here. One of her replies is to refer to other works doing the same this. Ariel is just doing her trade. The type of articles you want is not written by generalists like A’ but those working in their field of study. You’ll never find that kind of articles here. Ariel does a good job this type of article is what she’s paid to produce. Good job Ariel! Everyone else, if you don’t like what this store is selling, go to an outlet that is.

  • sailingsoul

    First let me said I have no real problem with this site or Ariel. Hay! To anyone who might have an issue with this type of reporting, consider the source. You’ve been reading and will continue to read this type of reporting your whole life, when dealing with general sourcing. This is what reporter/writers do, they know little about what they write, and when called on it their defense is “here my source, I just the messenger”. I would venture to say Ariel’s training is mostly in writing not wind, etc.. Her product would be just same no matter what the topic. Outrageous byline to lure the reader, then a pile of words to fill the space. Her job it to get you to come to this site, and return, period. It’s working. If you want real information don’t go to a media site. Controversy ? You got it here. One of her replies is to refer to other works doing the same this. Ariel is just doing her trade. The type of articles you want is not written by generalists like A’ but those working in their field of study. You’ll never find that kind of articles here. Ariel does a good job this type of article is what she’s paid to produce. Good job Ariel! Everyone else, if you don’t like what this store is selling, go to an outlet that is.

  • http://turbotricity.com Quentin Gargan

    I’m with Ariel on this one. I am currently developing a 2.5kw downwind turbine, and fine – we will include site assessment information because we want to ensure that our turbines work for people. Not everyone takes that approach.

    A large hardware chain recently offered a turbine that you bolt onto your house, and the British Tory Party Leader did just that (see link to photo at end of this post). Thousands have followed his lead becasue it is a cheap and simple solution, except it isn’t of course – such turbines probably never recover their embodied energy. Shame on those who prey on people who want to reduce their carbon emissions.

    The other problem in the market is a range of cheap and troublesome, or downright dangerous turbines from China flooding the market. I’ve tried five different ones on our site and I give up on that line.

    Yet the alternative is a turbine that costs more than the average family car. Why? Becasue turbine designers seem to see this as a niche market and assuming they’ll only sell in low volume charge a high margin. That becomes a self fulfilling prophesy….

    So our plan is to commoditise the market with a rugged turbine offered at prices that reflect standard hardware margins. Thankfully I enjoy my work so this is as much a hobby as an entrepreneurial endeavour, so the worst that can happen is a very expensive stamp collection.

    Oh yeah, that picture of house-mounted follies…

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/greener-power-to-the-people-the-real-energy-alternative-837821.html

    Quentin (Turbotricity).

  • http://turbotricity.com Quentin Gargan

    I’m with Ariel on this one. I am currently developing a 2.5kw downwind turbine, and fine – we will include site assessment information because we want to ensure that our turbines work for people. Not everyone takes that approach.

    A large hardware chain recently offered a turbine that you bolt onto your house, and the British Tory Party Leader did just that (see link to photo at end of this post). Thousands have followed his lead becasue it is a cheap and simple solution, except it isn’t of course – such turbines probably never recover their embodied energy. Shame on those who prey on people who want to reduce their carbon emissions.

    The other problem in the market is a range of cheap and troublesome, or downright dangerous turbines from China flooding the market. I’ve tried five different ones on our site and I give up on that line.

    Yet the alternative is a turbine that costs more than the average family car. Why? Becasue turbine designers seem to see this as a niche market and assuming they’ll only sell in low volume charge a high margin. That becomes a self fulfilling prophesy….

    So our plan is to commoditise the market with a rugged turbine offered at prices that reflect standard hardware margins. Thankfully I enjoy my work so this is as much a hobby as an entrepreneurial endeavour, so the worst that can happen is a very expensive stamp collection.

    Oh yeah, that picture of house-mounted follies…

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/greener-power-to-the-people-the-real-energy-alternative-837821.html

    Quentin (Turbotricity).

  • Pingback: Experts Predict 1 Million Jobs in Wind Power by 2010 : CleanTechnica

  • nix

    I think the misconceptions here are coming from how the article is arranged.

    “Many of the turbines in the study generated on average only 214 watt hours per day— less than five percent of a household’s electricity.”

    The paragraph: “Unfortunately for many homeowners…” comes behind: “Many of the turbines in the study generated…”, so people reading it may not quite understand they they are related.

    If you were to directly state the link between the two like: “The primary reason for this is that many home owners…”, then there would be less confusion.

    I do agree with the article. I’ve seen far too many poorly placed small turbines.

  • nix

    I think the misconceptions here are coming from how the article is arranged.

    “Many of the turbines in the study generated on average only 214 watt hours per day— less than five percent of a household’s electricity.”

    The paragraph: “Unfortunately for many homeowners…” comes behind: “Many of the turbines in the study generated…”, so people reading it may not quite understand they they are related.

    If you were to directly state the link between the two like: “The primary reason for this is that many home owners…”, then there would be less confusion.

    I do agree with the article. I’ve seen far too many poorly placed small turbines.

  • Ariel Schwartz

    Chris – the title isn’t inaccurate, and I’m not trying to slant anything. The PhysOrg article I referenced is entitled “Home turbines fail to deliver as promised.” Does that make PhysOrg also slanted and useless? I have nothing against wind turbines – in fact, I wholeheartedly support their use in many situations. The title is just meant to provoke discussion. As for the bit about if we “keep publishing slanted articles” – I’m not sure what other posts you’re referring to.

  • chrisp

    Ariel – You need to re-title this article to read – Poor wind turbine siting results in bad efficiency. THIS site will be USELESS if you keep publishing slanted articles like this and don’t incorporate all the facts!

  • chrisp

    Ariel – You need to re-title this article to read – Poor wind turbine siting results in bad efficiency. THIS site will be USELESS if you keep publishing slanted articles like this and don’t incorporate all the facts!

  • Ariel Schwartz

    Andy – I wasn’t trying to make any sort of statement about the general ability of wind turbines to produce power. See: “Unfortunately for many homeowners, obstructions like trees and buildings often get in the way of accessing substantial wind power. Turbines installed on buildings in exposed positions obviously have the best results.” While you as a manufacturer may emphasize proper siting, third party dealers often don’t.

  • chrisp

    Andy… good come back! How can you get any substantial wind generation when the wind mill is below the trees (as pictured).

    Correct siting and height is the key!

    I also see a mistake on the placement of the solar panels. The house is shading one and a half of the panels. Put the panels on the highest roof.

    Just a bad plan all around!

  • chrisp

    Andy… good come back! How can you get any substantial wind generation when the wind mill is below the trees (as pictured).

    Correct siting and height is the key!

    I also see a mistake on the placement of the solar panels. The house is shading one and a half of the panels. Put the panels on the highest roof.

    Just a bad plan all around!

  • http://www.skystreamenergy.com Andy Kruse

    It is unfortunate when a reporter such as Ms. Schwartz puts out a mis-leading article. She is referring to a study called the Warwick Wind trials. http://www.warwickwindtrials.org.uk/ – This is a study relating to proper siting of a wind generator. It compared the installation of one unit installed on a tower to others attached to the roof of a house.

    I am from the company that produces the Skystream which is pictured in the article. We and all credible small wind manufacturers emphasize the importance of proper siting of a wind turbine. All dealers are reuqired to attend training prior to selling our product. Understanding where the wind resource is, is critical to the sucess of any small wind system. It is no different than installing a solar panel on the north side of a building. Poor installation, poor performance.

    Lastly, the wind turbines used in the Warwick study had an output range between 100-1500 watts. Skystream is rated for 2400 watts. Ms Schwartz is again mis-leading people in thinking that is all these systems can do. Small wind systems come in all sizes and if properly sited, can produce more than replace a homeowner’s monthly electric consumption.

    I hope she does the public a favor and either write the article correctly or removes it.

    Andy Kruse – Southwest Windpower, Inc.

  • http://www.skystreamenergy.com Andy Kruse

    It is unfortunate when a reporter such as Ms. Schwartz puts out a mis-leading article. She is referring to a study called the Warwick Wind trials. http://www.warwickwindtrials.org.uk/ – This is a study relating to proper siting of a wind generator. It compared the installation of one unit installed on a tower to others attached to the roof of a house.

    I am from the company that produces the Skystream which is pictured in the article. We and all credible small wind manufacturers emphasize the importance of proper siting of a wind turbine. All dealers are reuqired to attend training prior to selling our product. Understanding where the wind resource is, is critical to the sucess of any small wind system. It is no different than installing a solar panel on the north side of a building. Poor installation, poor performance.

    Lastly, the wind turbines used in the Warwick study had an output range between 100-1500 watts. Skystream is rated for 2400 watts. Ms Schwartz is again mis-leading people in thinking that is all these systems can do. Small wind systems come in all sizes and if properly sited, can produce more than replace a homeowner’s monthly electric consumption.

    I hope she does the public a favor and either write the article correctly or removes it.

    Andy Kruse – Southwest Windpower, Inc.

  • Ariel Schwartz

    You got it!

  • http://scalarparty.livejournal.com lee schnaiberg

    ha ha. nevermind, should have just done more looking around: it’s http://www.warwickwindtrials.org.uk/2.html right?

  • http://scalarparty.livejournal.com lee schnaiberg

    ha ha. nevermind, should have just done more looking around: it’s http://www.warwickwindtrials.org.uk/2.html right?

  • http://scalarparty.livejournal.com lee schnaiberg

    Hey Ariel– can you find a link to the actual study? Everywhere I’ve seen mention about the study, and BWEA, but can’t find the actual study anywhere… please please please send link? Thanks!! U & Clean Technica rock!

  • http://scalarparty.livejournal.com lee schnaiberg

    Hey Ariel– can you find a link to the actual study? Everywhere I’ve seen mention about the study, and BWEA, but can’t find the actual study anywhere… please please please send link? Thanks!! U & Clean Technica rock!

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