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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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Articles

Further reading and calculators related to designing, installing, repairing and maintaining solar photovoltaic and electrical systems:

Types of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System

Introduction to the different types of Photovoltaic (PV) System available including Grid Tied, Off-Grid, Hybrid and Batteryless solar PV systems.

Solar PV System Components

Overview of the basic components needed to install a complete solar PV system. Introduction to solar PV panels. power inverters, AC & DC isolators and mounting systems.

Free Solar PV Calculators

A list of free solar PV calculators, solar design tools and software, Use to calculate solar yields and the Return on Investment (ROI) for solar PV systems.

Solar PV: Smart Export Guarantee

Interesting times ... The Smart Export Guarantee came into affect in January 2020. The Smart Export Guarantee is an obligation set by the government for licensed electricity suppliers to offer a tariff and to pay small-scale low carbon Generators and Micro-generators for any electricity that they export to the National Grid.

Evaluating Solar PV Panels - Which panels to buy?

What to look for when evaluating and selecting solar PV panels for UK installations. Electrical characteristics of solar PV arrays and the safety factors used for selecting BoS equipment, also mounting options.

Solar Panels - PV Array Calculator

Solar Panels: Solar PV System sizing and power yield calculator. Use to work out roof layouts, PV array sizes, No. of panels and power yields. Based on SAP 2009.

Flat Roof Solar PV Array Spacing / Shade Calculator

The minimum required space between parallel rows to avoid shading is decided by the height of the array immediately in front, the slope of the roof and the lattitude of the installation site. This table illustrates the different row spacings required for optimum positioning in different locations.

Engineering Recommendation G98

Grid Connections for Micro-Generators including Solar PV Systems and Elecricity Storage Systems in the UK. Under 16Amps Per Phase, grid synchronised.

Solar Electricity - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to size a system?, What is kWp?, What is the difference between a kilowatt (kW) and a kilowatt hour ( kWh)?, How does a solar PV system work? Can I add more solar panels to my system? How do I know if my solar panels are working?

Preparing for a Solar Panel Installation

As with any construction project the success and efficiency of a solar PV panel installation comes down to good planning. Some advice for potential system owners preparing for a new solar panel installation.

Planning Permission for Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

A solar PV installation can be classed as 'permitted development' subject to conditions and when not located within a conservation area, AONB or world heritage site.

Solar PV, Safety & The Building Regulations

Residential PV systems notifiable under Part P. Special consideration needed for Part A. A combination of serious risks for solar PV installers.

Safely Retrofitting Solar PV Roof Mounts

The things to consider before installing a retrofited solar PV system on a roof and an introduction to the type of equipment used to secure an on-roof solar PV system.

Smart Switching / Solar PV Power Switching

Available as an addition to existing solar PV systems or installed as a package alongside a new system, Smart switching puts full control of a solar PV system's power output firmly in the hands of the system owner.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) & Electrical Glossary of Terms

An alphabetical list of many of the industry and technical terms you are likely to come across when installing a solar PV system. The glossary also defines terms that are used in roofing and electrical work as well as in solar PV installation and solar manufacturing.

Electrical Warning Signs & Labelling

A quick overview of some common electrical warning signs and labels that you might find attached to electrical equipment.

ABB / Power One Aurora Inverter Faults and Repairs

Power One, at one point were the second ranked inverter manufacturer in the world and there are many Power One Aurora Inverters installed in the UK. The most popular models being the Uno PVI-3.0-TL-OUTD and the Uno PVI-3.6-TL-OUTD.

Fronius IG / IG Plus Inverter Faults and Repairs

Fronius IG and IG Plus series inverters have LCD displays on the front of the chassis that providing it's working, will highlight any errors with the inverter or the solar PV system that it runs.

Mastervolt Inverter Faults and Repairs

Mastervolt Sunmaster and the smaller Soladin ranges of inverters were widely installed in the UK between 2011 and 2014. Popular Sunmaster models being the Sunmaster XS2000, Sunmaster XS3200 and the Sunmaster XS4300.

SMA Sunnyboy Inverter Faults and Repairs

SMA Sunnyboy Inverters have been widely installed in the UK, some of the most popular being the SB1200, SB2000 and SB3000. High frequency models include the SB2000HF, SB2500HF, and SB3000HF. Transformerless models include the SB3000TL and the SB3600TL.

SolarEdge Inverter and Optimser Faults and Repairs

The SolarEdge system is unique and in our opinion unrivalled in terms of it's ability to monitor system performance down to panel level. This is achieved through the installation of a small unit called an optimiser.

Sonnen Macht Inverter Faults and Repairs

The problem we often find with these inverters are damaged relays, the tell tale sign of a relay failure is an Error 19: Relay or Error 19: Relay Fault warning displayed on the inverter's display.

Mains Power Supplies & Earthing Systems

Mains Supply and Earthing Systems: Location & accessability, supply systems, earthing, bonding, labelling, installing RCDs.

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