This is a summary of a much longer article appearing in the Daily Telegraph on Fri 27 Dec 2013.
The results of a Freedom of Information request regarding the performance of small wind turbines owned by Councils have just been released.
Councils are spending large sums of money on wind turbines, so it is important we know how well they are performing.
According to the councils which responded, it appears that many of the installations are generating tiny amounts of energy and are, effectively, little more than ornaments reminding us not to waste energy.
They were installed in an effort to meet renewable energy targets, but the strategy does not appear to have been very successful.
Two issues have arisen: (i) maintenance problems, and (ii) inappropriate locations, i.e. not enough wind.
In Eastleigh, Hampshire, a turbine costing about £30,000 was installed in 2005. Last year it generated 520 kWh of electricity. At 30p per unit this is worth £156.
In Leeds a wind turbine costing £62,000 was installed in 2009 in an inner city sports complex. It generated no electricity last year because of faults.
In Derbyshire (location not disclosed), a turbine costing £89,000 was installed in 2004 but has been out of action since Sept 2011 because of a fault. The company which installed it no longer exists.
In Rushcliffe, Notts, the council spent £30,000 on two turbines which generated 477kWh last year. These are on a different tariff (varying between 10p and 3p) which priced their electricity at £73.94.
Two turbines in Staffordshire (location not disclosed) were installed in 2011 for £48,000. Last year they produced 12,986 kWh, worth £3900 at 30p per unit.
Dr. John Constable, director at the Renewable Energy Foundation, said that the poor performance showed that wind turbines were an ineffective form of renewable energy. He added that foolishly ambitious targets and silly levels of subsidy have overheated the wind industry, resulting in defective technologies and poor installations.
The smaller turbines, of the type described in the responses, are usually expected to last between ten and fifteen years.
Rushcliffe council said that it had looked at ways of increasing efficiency but their windspeed was rather low. It also mentioned unexpectedly high maintenance costs and low generation rates.