Installing a wind turbine
Pros and cons of wind power
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Pros and cons of wind power
We talk you through the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy, so you can decide whether wind turbines are right for your home.
Wind energy is plentiful and renewable, and reduces carbon emissions when used instead of electricity generated from fossil fuels. Find out whether you can install a wind turbine.
Wind turbines produce electricity by harnessing the natural power of the wind to drive a generator.
Wind-derived electrical power comes from two main sources – domestic small-scale wind turbines installed by home owners (often called micro wind turbines), and industrial wind farms.
Read on to find out about the pros and cons of wind turbines and wind energy, and discover whether a wind turbine is suitable for your home.
Home wind turbines
Home wind turbines are small turbines. There are two sorts - wind turbines that can fit on roofs, and those that are mounted on a pole and can be installed free-standing in a garden or field.
Wind turbines need to be installed in a suitably exposed position, which means that many homes aren’t suitable. To find out whether your home is right for a wind turbine, read our guide to home wind turbines.
If you'd like to produce your own electricity, solar panels may well be a better bet. Our guide to installing solar panels explains what types of homes are suitable and how much solar panels cost.
Wind farms can be built either onshore or offshore.
The UK has the potential to harness around 40% of Europe's wind energy. The UK had more than 8,000 wind turbines as of January 2018, according to wind and marine industry trade body RenewableUK. That's a capacity of more than 48 million megawatt hours of electricity to be produced per year, powering more than 10 million homes.
In 2017, British wind farms generated three times as much power as coal. Overall, renewables account for 24.6% of energy generated. The graphic below shows how this splits between wind farms, solar and other renewable sources.
The largest offshore wind farm is the London Array offshore wind farm, off the Kent coastline. It has 175 turbines capable of generating enough energy to power 500,000 UK homes.
Scotland plans to generate half of its energy from renewables, and wind farms are a big part of this.
If you’re keen to support wind power, check our best and worst energy companies guides to find out which ones use the most renewable sources. Each company’s page has a graphic of its fuel mix, compared with the UK average.
Energy firms that operate wind farms include:
Advantages of wind power
- Electricity generated by the wind does not emit CO2 or leave any waste. Wind is also an infinite resource that cannot be exhausted.
- A small home wind turbine – when installed properly and in the right location – can cut your reliance on traditional fossil fuel resources.
- If you install a home wind turbine, you can earn money through the Feed-in Tariff for every kilowatt of electricity you produce, reducing your energy bills.
- Wind turbines rely on simple mechanical processes. Once the wind turbine is up and running, there are few running costs.
- Large-scale wind farms can be built at sea to exploit the UK's abundant off-shore wind flow without cluttering the landscape.
Disadvantages of wind power
- The Energy Saving Trust has concluded that fewer sites than previously thought are suitable for wind technology.
- Both small- and large-scale wind energy installations may require planning permission – contact your council before you start work.
- Wind turbine costs are high. A small 1kW roof-mounted turbine can cost up to £3,000.
- While domestic wind turbines require little maintenance, the inverter is likely to need replacing during the lifetime of the turbine, at a cost of £1,000 to £2,000.
- The amount of electricity generated is dependent on the speed and direction of the wind. The wind speed itself depends on a number of factors, such as location within the UK, height of the turbine and whether there are any nearby obstructions.
- Many people dislike the appearance and sound of wind turbines in the landscape, although noise pollution is less significant for micro-turbines.
- Anti-wind-farm groups argue that wind farms damage habitats and harm birds and marine ecology.
- Wind is an unpredictable energy source and requires the backup of more-traditional and polluting methods of energy generation.
Want to install renewable energy in your home? Find out if solar is a good investment.