Saturday, December 09, 2006

Wind Turbines on your roof

Domestic windturbines have been getting a little bit of bad press recently, so I think it is time for me to declare my interest in this department. For some months now I have been monitoring the wind situation gusting above my head on the roof of my flat. It's a good spot for a wind turbine, I thought. On a bit of a hillside, no immediate high buildings, good clear wind-run from the south-west save for some trees in the north side of the square (that seems to spend a lot of time waving merrily in the breeze in any event). Easy: like Hugh Piggott, I'll stick an anenometer up and see what's what.

To do this proved to be a bit of a challenge. I bought my anemometer, read the instructions (5 times) and tried to work out what the hell I was supposed to do to get it going. The manual is clearly written for wind geeks with a certain amount of prior understanding. No explanation of what was what. Nearly gave up, save for the nice man at the end of the phone from the company who talked me through how to install it (in a matter of minutes). Seems most people have this problem. Makes you wonder why manuals are written in the first place.

So after a few days analysing the windiest setting for it and plumping for the front south-westerly positioning, this is the end result: my anemometer sitting proudly on my roof, hooked up to a transmitter/base station via a wire through the window, and readings given on the touch-screen.

What have I discovered? Well, urban wind is a fickle creature. She comes, she goes, she plays havoc on the other side of my house, blatantly ignoring my anemometer - other times the reverse. Sometimes she is utterly still. Quite unlike the wind in rural locations such as Scoraig in northwest Scotland, where the wind seems to blow heartily long and frequently. For a few nights recently she banged around the chimney pots at remarkable high winds and my touch screen gave me very optimistic readings indeed.

So is it worthwhile putting up a wind-turbine? Hmm. Problem is, all turbines currently on the market are designed for rural windy locations, not central London rooftops. None have been designed with urban locations in mind - none have been considered in this context until now. But I remain curious. I shall continue monitoring my wind, and await to see what new technological developments arise. In the meantime I have had to make do with switching my electricity supplier to Ecotricity - far easier to do than reading an anemometer manual, but not half as much fun.

P.S. Does anyone out there know why my touch screen insists on beeping at 2pm every day? And how to stop it?

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