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Costs to consider when installing a wind turbine

Posted by David Hunt on 20 December 2010 at 9:57 am

No renewable energy technology seems to provoke as much controversy as wind turbines. People love them or hate them. As far as performance goes, a wind turbine can be the most efficient generator of green electricity, or the worst!  

With wind turbines location is everything. Don't just take my word for it, the Energy Saving Trust published a report a couple of years ago, based on independent field trials, called, Location, Location, Location (clicking this link downloads a free copy). It said what we have always known, small, roof mounted wind turbines are pretty much a complete waste of money, despite being relatively cheap. On the other hand, a well-sited 6kw wind turbine is a fantastic producer of green electricity.  The trouble is, you need a reasonable amount of land, and to be able to afford a capital outlay of £25-35k to have one fully installed and commissioned. 

If you have that sort of capital, or even c£50k for a 15kw machine, and a reasonable amount of land, with a clean air-flow, nothing can touch a robust wind turbine. With the current feed-in tariff payments of 26.7p per kWh we have customers that have machines that will pay for themselves in 3-6 years, giving a 20% plus return on investment. That is why there is such big interest from farmers and industrial parks, and indeed people with barn conversions, paddocks or an acre or two of land.

There are though some things you need to be aware of and consider if you are thinking of installing a wind turbine. There are costs over and above the cost of the installation.  You will certainly need planning permission, this should be in the region of £800- £1,200, plus the application fee.

You may need to have an independent risk assessment done if you are near public land. Depending on your electrical supply you may need to upgrade your fuse board or incoming supply.

Most turbines up to 6kw should be eligible to be installed under G-83 regulations, as are domestic solar pv installations. Not something you need to worry about as your installer should take care of all of these matters. If you are looking at a 15kw machine you fall into the bracket of G-59, a commercial scale installation. You will need a 3-phase supply, but there are also additional costs for your installer and the DNO (national grid) and this could be in the region of £1,000 - £2,000.

You could need a ground/soil analysis, or maybe ecological surveys for birds and bats. In short, explore the installation with a fully MCS accredited installer before incurring any costs. They should be able to talk you through your options, and from Google Earth give an indication whether you have a suitable site.

They will certainly need to undertake a full site survey if you wish to pursue your interest. Some may charge for this. And they should talk you through all of the potential costs and pitfalls, as well as the enormous benefits.  

Also be sure their quote covers everything, some installers don't quote for groundworks, this could easily be £2,000 - £3,000. So be aware of all the potential costs to factor into your decision to progress to seeking planning permission.

Hopefully that doesn't sound like hard work. It isn't. A good installer can cover all of this quickly for you, and if you go ahead you shouldn't have much to do at all, except look forward to all of that great, green energy.

The other thing to be aware of is that in order to claim your feed in tariffs, as with solar PV, your product, like your installer, must be MCS accredited. There are currently only two machines that are (as of 16 December 10), the Evance R9000 (a 5kw machine), and the Proven Energy P35-2 (a 15kw machine NB: this machine was suspended from MCS on 21/9/11 pending investigation of failures). Proven Energy have announced today that their 6kw machine, the P11, is so close to achieving its MCS status they will guarantee to pay your feed-in tariffs if it hasn't passed by the deadline of 30th June 2011.  

There are others on what is called the 'transition list'. This means they are still undergoing trials, but if they haven't passed by 30 June, you will not be eligible for the tariffs, and that makes a huge difference to the economic viability of your investment.

So wind turbines, in the right location are amazing generators. In the wrong location they are a complete waste of money. You should be careful about choosing your installer and product for any technology, but none more so than wind. Make sure you are aware of all of the potential costs, and make sure you verify your installer and product on the MCS website, and here on YouGen

About the author: David Hunt was Head of Commercial for Renewable Solutions UK Ltd. He no longer works in the renewable energy sector.

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

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2 comments - read them below or add one

David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 21 December 2010 at 2:44 pm

As far as I am aware it is not true that products currently on the transition list have until the end of June to pass MCS.  What is true is that installers/customers have until the end of June to order, install and register products that are currently on the TL – whether or not they achieve MCS. 

Whether or not a manufacturers wind turbine was on the transition list it is still perfectly possible to have a wind turbine tested to MCS – there is no deadline attached.  However, if the wind turbine was not on the TL they do not have the above mentioned luxury of having the six months grace. That is no FIT payment would be eligible or possible until the machine fully passed the MCS testing.

Should a manufacturer introduce a new wind turbine they would have to have it tested to MCS.

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R.MusiComment left on: 20 December 2010 at 5:04 pm

The MCS Transition List stuff is a bit confusing. We received an email from RenewableUK saying that the transition list was closing on the 31st December 2010, and that any turbines not fully MCS accredited by this time would from then on not be able to. There was a caveat saying that any installations in progress for current Transition List products would have until the 30th June 2011 to complete and still receive Feed in Tariffs.

From this statement I didn’t conclude that they would have until the 30th June 2011 to convert to full MCS; I read that if transition products weren't converted to MCS by 31/12/2010 they wouldn't from then on be able to. So does the closing of the transition list mean that new turbine manufacturers entering on the market post 1st January 2011 or 30th June 2011 would not be able to receive MCS certification for their products and therefore not be able to offer their clients Feed in Tariff benefits? 

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