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Wind Turbine Basics

Wind Turbines use the wind's energy to provide electricity instead of burning fossil fuels. Here we look at wind turbines, the equipment used in a wind turbine system, how wind turbines work and assess the benefits of wind turbines.

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Wind Turbines

Wind turbines can be one of the most effective methods of generating electricity when sited in a good location. A correctly positioned wind turbine can produce excellent results, reducing the dependance on the National Grid and replacing carbon emissions that would otherwise have been generated from using conventional energy sources.

Wind turbines generate electricity and can supply buildings in parallel with grid electricity and operate as stand alone systems. Wind turbines are not well suited to medium-high density urban areas but in a windy rural location they offer excellent performance.

Components of a Wind Power System

Locating Wind Turbines

The amount of wind and the speed in which the wind hits the turbine is essential for a successful installation. Good locations for wind turbines could include:

Benefits of a Wind Power System:

How Long does installation take?

This depends on the system you require installing and the amount of cabling and roofing work required. Generally between 1-5 days from arrival to commissioning your system.

Will I require planning permission for a Wind Turbine?

Yes, typical reasons for rejection are:

How long will my system last?

The average lifetime of a wind turbine is in excess of 20 years. Different manufacturers have different warranty periods.

What about Wind Turbine maintenance?

All Wind Turbine systems require servicing and an inspection annually.

Is my site windy enough for a Wind Turbine?

If the wind speed at a site is recorded over a year, it will be seen to vary about a mean wind speed value. This is the annual mean wind speed (AMWS) and is an indication of how much wind energy is available. In the UK, AMWS could be as low as 4 m/s (9.0 mph) for an inland site to around 8 m/s (13 mph) or higher on the most exposed sites.

In general, you need an AMWS of at least 4 m/s to be able to generate a reasonable amount of energy, ideally more than 4.5 m/s.

How high should the wind turbine tower be?

Standard towers are 9, 12, 13, 15 and 18m metres high. In general, the higher the tower, the higher the average wind speed that the turbine will experience, but it may not always be the case. A site survey will be needed.

How much space do I need for a wind turbine?

Ideally, the turbine should be sited as far away as possible from buildings or trees, which may block the wind and cause turbulence. As a guide, the wind generator should be about twice the height of obstructions in front of it (for at least the prevailing wind direction).

Micro-Hydro

Micro hydro is suitable for situations where there is a combination of sufficient water flow and 'head' (the height the water drops) to drive a turbine to generate electricity. The output from the system is a product of the two, with some efficiency factors to consider.

Not very much water is needed if the water drops more than 20metres (for example a mountain stream) or very large amounts are needed if the water only drops a few feet (a large river). Please note, not all the water in a stream may be taken for hydro purposes. Typically only up to 50% is allowed and it is necessary to obtain an abstraction license from the Environment Agency.

The system requires an intake for the water, a penstock through which the water is transported to the turbine. The turbine, generator and control gear need to be housed. Hydro can be used for off-grid or grid connected applications.

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