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Choosing a wind turbine installer

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 19 November 2010 at 9:25 am

If you are considering installing a small wind turbine on your property you want to want to make sure that you get the maximum financial benefit for the electricity produced. Choosing an installer that will ensure that the turbine works well is key. Here are a few things you should consider.

1. Before you start to talk to installers you may want to collect together some information to help you prepare a brief for them:

You need to identify if you have single phase or a three phase electricity supply to your premises, (If you don’t know it is most likely that you have a single phase supply). It is also helpful if you get the last 12 month's electricity bills together and work out how many kWh of electricity you use each year, this information will help the installer recommend an appropriate size turbine for your property. Using the bulk of the electricity on your property ensures that you get the maximum financial benefit.

You may want to prepare a sketch plan of your property and the surrounding homes. The turbine must be sited at least 50m from a neighbouring property, the further the better. It is a good idea to talk to your neighbours and the local planners early to see if they will raise any objections to your plans.

There are databases available giving you an indication of the likely average wind speeds at your site but you will need to make measurements of the wind speeds on your proposed site if you want an accurate estimate of the likely generation form the turbine. When you start to talk to installers ask them what help they are able to give with this. Some may be able to erect a mast or provide you with equipment; others may recommend a third party organisation that can help. There will be a charge for this but it is money well spent if you do not want to be disappointed latter.

2. To ensure that you get the benefit from the Feed in Tariffs (FiTs) you must make sure that both the  installer and the product you use have MCS accreditation. Certification applies to the Wind Turbine; the inverters do not require MCS accreditation. An installer applying for certification needs to carry out a test installation and have this assessed by the MCS accreditation body prior to being granted MCS certification. Occasionally an installer may approach a potential customer and offer to install a turbine at a discount as part of their MSC certification application, this can be an attractive proposition but you must be aware that the system will only qualify for the payments of FiTs from the date the installer successfully obtains accreditation that could be some time after your system was installed and if the system never manages to obtain accreditation it will never qualify for the payments.

3. You may also want to choose an installer that is a member of the REAL Assurance Scheme. The installer will have signed up to the code of conduct and this may help if things go wrong.

4. Make a short list of installers [you can use YouGen directory to find local, recommended installers - ed], and ask them to provide you with reference projects where they have measured the generation of the turbine after installation, did the generation match the predictions? Ask if you can speak to the customers to check that they were happy with the installation. If possible visit an installation where the same turbine was installed to see and hear the turbine in operation.

Photo by indywriter

About the author: Graham Eastwick is a director of Encraft, and manages renewable energy installations for home owners, community organisations and small businesses across the UK.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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1 comments - read them below or add one

David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 21 November 2010 at 5:54 pm

Excellent advice here. One thing I'd add, when talking to potential installers, and especially when you get your quote, check that the quote includes everything you need. Some installers quotes do not include groundworks and digging a trench from your turbine site, to your property. They should also highlight any other costs you may need to incur, even if it is not directly something they do, for example you will need to get planning permission, this is a cost, usually in the region of £1,000 to £2,000. You may also need....

An independent risk assessment.

Ecological surveys (birds/bats)

An upgrade to your electrical supply 

Upgrades or space within a plant room or other suitable location for your inverter(s) and control gear.

 Be sure you have all the facts and all the costs to hand. Well located wind turbines can produce substantial amounts of electricity, and therefore, with the Feed in Tariff scheme, substantial income. But beware hidden costs for the installation.

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