Windsave, manufacturer of domestic wind turbine distributed through B&Q. went bust recently. Their Chief Exec blamed delays in implementing Government Policy, but I wonder…..
In their original marketing Windsave suggested their turbines would generate 1000kWh and provide “up to 30% of the electricity your household needs, based on average wind speeds and suitable locations”. For a £1,500 price tag this looked to a lot of people like a good deal, and many, including some reputable businesses were persuaded to part with cash.
Unfortunately the reality fell far short of the promises. A survey last year by the Energy Savings Trust found no instance of a micro wind turbine in an urban or suburban location which generated more than 200kWh per year. In some cases the control electronics consumed more mains electricity in the course of a year than was generated from the wind.
The failing was not Windsave’s alone; any rooftop turbine in an urban situation is in the boundary layer where airflow is turbulent and most of the energy has been dissipated through friction. It is simply not possible to generate any sensible amount of wind energy under these conditions.
Nevertheless Windsave seriously overstated the performance of their product. The public backlash started early, with numerous blogs by eco-enthusiasts describing woeful generation from their machines. Windsave were forced into serial retractions of their claims for performance and finally removed all performance information from their website.
If we mislead the public by overstating issues, when they discover the truth they will never afford us credibility again. It is crucial that we avoid doing this when it comes to debating renewables in the context of national energy policy.