|Photo by Jeremy Barlett: www.vanna-art.co.uk|
Windmills have been a common sight from the Middle Ages. By the nineteenth century, over 10,000 Dutch style windmills were in use in Britain. They were used to grind corn, pump water, make paper and saw timber. It is calculated that they produced 10kW of power and do the same amount of work as about 200 people. During the 1860’s windpower began to be used to generate electricity, but by 1914 they were in decline, replaced by cheap fossil fuels.
With the end of oil and rising fossil fuel costs, wind is an important part of a low carbon future. Whether you think them ugly or not, wind-turbines will need to play an important role in this century, if we are serious about reducing CO2 within the next decade.
In the UK we have 40% of Europe's total wind energy. But it's still largely untapped as only 0.5% of UK electricity requirements are currently generated by wind power.
A large wind turbine can power a whole village or neighbourhood. It can also be owned by the community, helping to engage the community in understanding the need to end reliance on fossil fuels and the hugely wasteful centralised energy grid.
For an example of how a community can gain planning permission and finance a community-owned wind turbine, visit Hockerton Housing Project: www.hockertonhousingproject.org.uk.
WIND SPEED IS VITAL
Approximate wind speed figures for your location can be checked on the DECC website:
http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/uk_supply/energy_mix/renewable/explained/wind/windsp_databas/windsp_databas.aspx. You will need an ordinance survey grid reference, which can be obtained by following the instructions on the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills website.
- The data provided will show average wind speeds at three different heights: 45m, 25m, and 10m.
- These readings do not take into consideration the problems associated with built up areas, land gradients and obstacles.
A figure for average wind speed of of 6m/s or more would indicate an ideal location. Locations with wind speed less than 5m/s are classed as unsuitable.
Wind power can also be used alongside the traditional mains supply of electricity, which will supply electricity when the wind speeds are low. The main advantage of being connected to the electrical grid is that you can sell any excess electricity generated by the turbine straight back when you are generating more than you are using, removing the need for batteries.
Those living in remote and suitably windy locations can use a stand-alone microwind turbine. These systems known as off-grid systems use electricity from the wind turbines to charge batteries when the electricity isn’t being used directly. However, the use of batteries creates environmental issues that should be considered carefully.
Small turbines tend to work badly in built-up areas because buildings break up wind flows and their use in urban areas will remain limited. However, there are designs that make use of the air currents between and over buildings. Quiet Revolution specialises in small-scale, vertical-axis turbines that are more suitable for use in built-up areas than more conventional turbines. The company's flagship product, the QR5, can produce up to six kilowatts of power. The triple-helix-shaped wind turbines are five metres high and just over three metres wide.
|Cross section drawing showing location of wind turbines on roof of Greenhouse|
The Greenhouse Story
In June 2006 the Greenhouse Trust made a planning application to Norwich City Council to install three roof mounted ‘swift’ wind turbines. Two one metre wind turbines were proposed for the two chimney stacks at the rear of the building, with a third planned for the gable end. The calculation of wind speed indicated that the turbines would intermittently generate a very small amount of energy.
However as a showcase environment building, the Trust agreed that it would be useful to demonstrate the technology and take the designs through the planning process. (Currently micro-wind requires planning permission on all buildings.) Installing them on a city centre building would also mean they could be viewed by visitors to the environment centre.
It was hoped that the planning officers would have wanted to engage with the issues; sadly, within days the application was rejected. The reasons given for rejection were: an adverse effect on the character of the City Centre, and an unsuitable alteration and development to an existing (listed) building.
|Proposed siting of three ‘swift’ wind turbines on the Greenhouse|
The same arguments had been used when the Trust applied for installation of its solar hot water and solar photovoltaic systems in 1997 and 1999. On these two previous occasions the Trust had appealed the planning officers’ recommendation. The applicants were subsequently overwhelmingly supported by the elected Councillors on the Planning Committee.
A key block to the take-up of renewable technology locally remains the planners use of ‘visual amenity’ as a subjective barrier to planning approval. It is clear that the officers remain disengaged from the seriousness of climate change and the urgent need to create a local electricity supply. The Trust continues to use the planning rejection documents at a national level to illustrate the problems of very weak legislation and the inappropriate powers and planning controls that negate attempts to make our homes and cities sustainable in terms of energy.
Good Energy is the UK’s only dedicated 100% renewable electricity supplier - all their electricity comes from sustainable sources like wind turbines, solar panels and hydro power, with no carbon emissions.
Homes and businesses across the UK switch to us every day, cutting their environmental impact and supporting a growing community of independent renewable energy generators. Currently they have 25,000 customers who have chosen clean, green energy. The more people that switch, the greener we can make the UK energy industry.
Check with the Low Carbon Buildings Programme at http://www.lowcarbonbuildings.org/home/
Energy Saving Trust (EST)
Advice Centre - Anglia
Swaffham PE37 7HT
Tel: 0800 512012
British Wind Energy Association (BWEA)
1 Aztec Row, Berners Road, London, N1 0PW
Tel: 020 7689 1960
Renewable Energy Association
17 Waterloo Place London SW1Y 4AR
Tel: 020 7747 1830
1.12, Clerkenwell Workshops, 31 Clerkenwell Close, London, EC1R 0AU
Tel: 020 7014 3399
Hockerton Housing Project
The Watershed, Gables Drive, Hockerton, Southwell, Nottingham NG25 0QU
Tel: 01636 816902
Designed by: Anya Temple - www.anyatemple.com
Printed by: Modern Press
10 Santareen Road, Long Stratton
Tel: 01508 531899
Published by: The Greenhouse Trust
42-46 Bethel Street, Norwich, NR2 1NR
Charity Number: 1037992
Sponsored by: NatureSave and The Helen Roll Charity