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published: 30/11/2007
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Micro-wind turbines and their role in combating global warming

A report into domestic micro-wind turbines published today by the BRE Trust shows that in many urban areas they are unlikely to pay back either their carbon emissions or the home owner's costs for installation and maintenance.

The report looks at both the carbon and financial payback times that can be expected from typical domestic micro-wind turbine installations in a range of representative locations in Manchester, Portsmouth and Wick. It describes the financial and carbon costs of manufacture, installation and maintenance and compares them with the likely carbon and cost savings made by the electricity generated during their useful life.

The results show that, in windy locations such as the outskirts of Wick and parts of Portsmouth, domestic micro-wind turbines can generate sufficient energy to pay back their carbon costs within a few months to a few years and then go on to make a positive contribution to combating global warming, but in large, less windy urban areas such as Manchester they are very unlikely to ever pay back their carbon costs. Even when optimally sited outside of major conurbations financial payback is unlikely for all but the most efficient, low maintenance, low price turbines.

The report shows that performance is highly sensitive to relatively small changes in local wind conditions (standard performance calculations are usually based on wind speed databases, which don't account for surface roughness and local effects), installation and maintenance regimes (including associated transport costs) and expected service life.

It highlights the need for manufacturers to develop more efficient turbines with low maintenance and a long reliable life and for those planning to install them to first take account of local wind conditions.

Dr Martin Wyatt, Chief Executive of the BRE Trust Group said “Micro-wind turbines designed to be mounted on both new build and existing homes could be very useful weapons in the fight against climate change. However, we need to significantly improve their whole life performance and provide independent assessment of that performance combined with simple advice on where to use and not use them, before we move to large scale installation. Without these improvements we are as likely to accelerate global warming as slow it.”

“If we are to tackle the very real problems of climate change and energy security we must base policy and decisions on real evidence”.

The BRE Trust is funding further research into this area in order to better advise and inform stakeholders about design, installation, performance and efficiency.

Micro-wind turbines in urban environments: an assessment’ is published as BRE Trust report FB17, ISBN 978-1-84806-021-0) and is available in hard copy and pdf format from www.brebookshop.com


Notes for editors

The BRE Trust is a registered charity (no. 1092193) whose objectives are to advance knowledge, innovation and communication in all matters concerning the built environment for public benefit.

BRE and BRE Global (formerly BRE Certification) are wholly owned subsidiary companies of the Trust. This ownership structure enables both companies to be held as a national asset on behalf of the construction industry and its clients, independent of specific commercial interests and protects impartiality and objectivity in research and advice. Profits made by the other subsidiary companies are passed to the Trust and used by it to promote its charitable objectives. Members of the Trust are firms, professional bodies, universities and other organisations covering a comprehensive range of interests across the built environment sector. More information on the Trust can be obtained from www.bretrust.org.

Press review copies are available on request from Helen Ball at BRE, T 01923 664303 E ballh@bre.co.uk

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