The Sad Truth About Rooftop Wind Power And A Ray Of Hope For The Future



There's something attractive and appealing about rooftop wind power. Somehow, people get excited about the visible presence of a wind turbine spinning atop the roof of their house.

Do they make such a device? Of course they do – there's money to be made out of selling them.

However, we are here to tell you - “don't be sucked in, no matter how persuasive the sales brochure or salesperson may be.”

So having made such a damning assessment of rooftop turbines, we need to back it up with some reasons and facts.

Vibration And Noise

Mounting a rooftop turbine means that once it is operating; considerable vibration will occur. This stands to reason when you have a machine spinning fairly quickly. Normal household roofs are not designed to deal with regular vibration. This means that your home may suffer structural damage as a result of consistent vibration. The manufacturers and marketers of the rooftop turbines will wax eloquent about damping devices and special installation procedures, but be very wary of such claims.

Also, there is no such thing as a totally quiet rooftop turbine. They do make a noise and you can add that to the vibration issues.

Location

It always comes back to location. Where you place any turbine large or small, urban or rural, location is always of prime importance. So what about rooftop wind power? Are there problems with putting a turbine on the roof of an urban dwelling?

There sure are...

Successful turbines need clear wind! Urban housing rooftops are a poor place if you want to get good wind and therefore good performance from your rooftop turbine. The issue with rooftop turbines is one of what is called “turbulence”. This is a reference to the fact that close to the ground you get a lot of “clutter”. Buildings, trees, phone towers, light and telephone poles and all the other paraphernalia that one finds in an urban setting, all combine to produce unreliable, turbulent wind.

There are two very useful pieces of advice from us that you should take on board:

  • Find a home with the brand of turbine you are considering buying and introduce yourself to the owners and ask them questions, not only about the performance (how many kilowatt-hrs is it producing) but also about the noise and vibration issues. If you can't find a home with your chosen brand, no matter, still introduce yourself and ask the questions.
  • Visit the web site of Paul Gipe, an acknowledged expert on all things related to wind power. The following link takes you to a series of articles on small wind turbines and rooftop mounting. Rooftop & Urban Wind If you read only some of those articles you will soon get the picture. Rooftop turbines do not live up to the claims made by their manufacturers and marketers.

The Future of Rooftop Wind Power In Urban Areas

Is there a way forward for rooftop wind power in urban areas? Honestly, it's difficult to see how there can be. The laws of physics dictate otherwise. There's not enough clean wind and combine that with the noise and safety factors and you have a “no-win” situation.

The small wind turbine industry continues to market small wind turbines aggressively and often in a very misleading fashion and it's worthwhile reflecting how this sad state of affairs has come about.

  • The public has become increasingly switched on to the importance of renewable energy resources, including wind energy.
  • This same general public has witnessed the development of large-scale wind power with large commercial turbines, both onshore and offshore, and they know that wind works.
  • This has led to the next step of wanting to move into having wind power that they own and that they can profit by. Rooftop wind power suddenly becomes desirable
  • The small wind turbine industry takes advantage of this surge in public awareness and engages in aggressive marketing of rooftop turbines, often making outrageous claims for their products that can never be realized in practice.
  • The industry has been aided and abetted in their marketing hype by the government policies in some countries of providing capital subsidies based on the “rated capacity” of the turbine rather than on the more sensible “power actually produced”.
  • The public also cannot resist the idea of getting a handout from the government and they sign up for the marketing offers only to be eventually sadly disappointed with the outcome.

The real tragedy in this is that the general public may become disillusioned with the wind industry as a whole instead of seeing it as an asset with tremendous capacity to generate energy for household use – but not on the roof of your house.

So let's look at the wider picture...

The Future of Wind Power In Urban Areas

Yes, this heading is almost identical to the previous one - with one significant difference – the word “rooftop” is omitted.

So is there a ray of hope for the future?

It is important for the small wind industry that people don't lose heart. It's also important the industry matures and get's rid of pretensions and false information. This will only be achieved when the following things occur:

  • Subsidies must be based on performance.
  • The turbines must receive certification (which requires extensive testing) so that consumers know exactly what they are buying.
There is also another way forward for urban consumers which moves outside the small wind industry into the large wind industry. This involves siting large commercial turbines in urban areas and having the ownership shared amongst various partners. There are plenty of good examples of this development, particularly in Europe. To find out more about go to our page on Community Wind.

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