Research suggests that the current fad for adding domestic wind turbines to houses in built up areas may actually create more carbon dioxide than they save.
The Building Research Establishment Trust (BRE) has found that, in towns and cities, surrounding buildings and turbulence mean that wind turbines just do not operate efficiently enough to compensate for the “carbon cost” of construction, instillation and maintenance.
The BRE used test sites in Manchester, Portsmouth and Lerwick and analysed the performance of three of the most popular types of turbine. In Manchester two thirds of the tests the carbon cost was so it high it could never be paid back in the lifetime of the turbine generating the electricity.
Portsmouth fared better particularly in locations with unfettered winds from the coast but even here a third of the tests showed a negative return.
The BRE calculated that the power output of a wind turbine on a pitched roof in Manchester was likely to be less than 150kWh per year – about 2% of the total energy consumption of the average household. But in remoter locations with strong winds e.g. Scottish towns it could be as high as 3000kWh per annum, which represents 40% of the average consumption.
The BRE report shows that urban locations have to be chosen with care and much more information is needed to enable people to make the right choices.
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