Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Potential for super-efficient wind turbines in the UK

Much is being made of the new Skystream 600 wind turbine recently unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Manufacturers claim it produces 74% more energy than its predecessor the Skystream 3.7, and could provide around 7400kWh of electricity at 12mph wind speed, around 60% of the average demand of an American home. The turbine is horizontal axis and floor mounted.

This turbine performs 3 times better than the most productive in the Warwick wind trials, however will still be subject to similar limitations. Results of these trials conclude that domestic wind turbines 'would make a tangible contribution to energy and carbon saving only on the most exposed sites'.

At present, 90% of the UK's population reside in urban areas. This a larger proportion than in the US (82%), Spain (77%), Portugal (61%), China (45%) and Sweden (85%). In fact, after Belgium, we are the most urbanised state in the EU.

The cut in speed of most wind turbines is between 7-10mph. Wind speed in urban areas rarely reaches more than 10mph, much less 12mph. Actually, less than 1% of the UK's land has an average windspeed of more than 10mph.

Domestic wind turbines may have a role to play in reducing carbon emissions for some countries, especially large rural populations in developed countries, such as in the American midwest - in the UK however, the electricity generated by even the most efficient and productive wind turbine will be negligible for the majority of the population, and will rarely produce the level of savings needed to satisfy planning conditions for new residential developments. Offshore wind has a much larger potential for carbon reductions - in fact, many argue that concentrating on decarbonising the grid is of much more use than sticking energy producing gadgets on houses.

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