Thursday, 11 December 2014

Crazy Idea 24 - Install a vertical wind turbine in everyone’s garden

Wind turbines are the marmite of renewable energy. Love them or hate them, they are a unique opportunity. Until the moon finally disappears from our orbit we’ll always have the potential to exploit wind power. (CI024A)

I’m not sure why some people hate wind turbines. I look at the same view of a wind farm and the massive white towers add to the scene, not detract from it. However, I couldn’t fit one of those monsters in my own garden.

These horizontal turbines do need to be quite high up. I wouldn’t want to have to dodge one of those spinning blades. But horizontal turbines – basically a reverse desk fan – are not the only sort of wind turbine you can get.

I first saw a vertical wind turbine at Michael and Dot’s Zero Carbon House in Unst, Shetland. Only a foot high, sitting on top of a plinth at about waist height, it was one of the simplest, friendly designs I’ve seen. Once you’ve seen one, you’ll wonder why we don’t have one in every garden or attached to every house. (CI024B)

Wind turbines are currently expensive, but in part that is down to their size – companies produce larger turbines as big is believed to provide a better return on investment. We’ve been sold a story that wind turbines have to be big and need a lot of space, but anyone who’s watched the air vent spinning around on top of a white van will know you don’t need a lot of space to capture wind power.

Wind turbines are also expensive as this is a new technology with constant redesign resulting in inefficiency in manufacturing. If we could agree a standard, enforce it and manufacture in bulk, the cost of turbines could be reduced.

At present, vertical wind turbines are thought to be less efficient. In part because when part of the blade is being pushed by the wind, another part of the blade is being slowed by the wind.

However, Michael and Dot were trialling a design that overcame this problem by encasing the blades so that the wind could only ever push the blade one way.

Small scale turbines like this have a massive advantage over their larger counterparts: ease of access for maintenance and repair. If you don’t need a ladder or a climbing harness to access the mechanism you enter the realm of enabling DIY home maintenance.

Small wind turbines may only give up to 200 watts output but manufacture them cheaply enough, drive down the cost of installing and maintaining them and suddenly you can ramp up your return on investment to the point where a family could afford to buy several.

We need radical ideas to fix our economy. We need crazy ideas. We need a public that is willing to unite to change the situation. A government that is determined to make long term decisions that will benefit our society for decades to come.

We could commit to installing a vertical wind turbine in every garden in the country. According to the ONS there are 26,442,096 homes in the UK – as of the 2011 census. (CI024C)

According to research by HSBC, 72% of UK households have a garden. (CI024D)

That is roughly 19 million homes with the potential to site a vertical wind turbine.

The reality will be that many of these gardens will be in cities and towns or in areas where there is not much wind but even so, there is scope for many millions of locations across the country where a renewable power source could be installed. How many jobs could we create if we committed to installing just one turbine in every garden and maintaining them for the next decade?

And if you think this is a crazy idea, check out this instructables: (CI024E)

Next time someone tells you wind turbines cost thousands of pounds to build, point them in this direction!

Do post your own crazy ideas or feedback on mine in the comments below and sign up to my mailing list below to be notified of future posts.

Why should my crazy ideas have any relevance to the economy? I'm the author of The Great Scottish Land Grab, a novel that imagines a fairer future for Scotland where the poor are empowered to change their destiny. I'm director of my own limited company: Goal 31 Ltd and I've over seven years experience working for government and financial organisations. Also, just like you, I'm a taxpayer and for some crazy reason I think that entitles us to have an opinion and for that opinion to be acted on by the government.

As I wrote at the start, I am making my 100 crazy ideas freely available. It seems unjust to propose ideas to fix the economy and then prevent people from freely reading those ideas. 100 Crazy Ideas to Fix the Economy will be published once the craziness is complete.

I can be found on Twitter: @my100goals or on Facebook: There's a short bio here.

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(CI024A; Universe Today;

(CI024B; Zero Carbon House;

(CI024Cl; ONS;

(CI024D; HSBC;

(CI024E; Instructables;

(CI024F; YouTube; //

(CI024G; YouTube; //

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