The Latest Fashion from London: Domestic Wind Turbines

Home wind turbines like this one from Futurenergy are increasingly popular in Britain.
Home wind turbines like this one from Futurenergy are increasingly popular in Britain.

Domestic wind turbines are gaining in popularity in Britain, where some 80,000 homes now use small renewable power generation units to provide energy for residents, reports a recent Reuters article. Donnachadh McCarthy, who last November earned distinction as the first Londoner permitted to put a wind turbine on his house, is using the unit and other renewable energy devices to feed surplus power back to the grid. “I have exported 20 percent more electricity than I’ve imported this year,” he boasts, noting that his carbon footprint is less than half a ton, far below the European Union average of 8.5 metric tons.

A promise earlier this year by David Cameron, leader of the UK’s opposition Conservative Party, to install a wind turbine and solar panel on his home led to dramatically increased sales of “microgeneration” products—especially wind turbines—nationwide, the article notes. Mainstream retailers, such as B&Q, a chain of hardware stores run by Kingfisher Plc., sell domestic turbines for around 1,500 British pounds (US$2,800). But the number of smaller producers is growing as well. Futurenergy, for example, sells about 100 of its £695 ($1,200) turbines each week to customers around the world, according to company director Peter Osborne.

Domestic wind turbines could supply some 4 percent of Britain’s electricity needs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6 percent, reports the Energy Saving Trust, a non-profit organization funded by the government and private sector to promote sustainable energy use and cut carbon dioxide emissions. The group predicts that overall, renewable power could supply more than one-third of Britain’s energy needs in just a few decades.

London wind pioneer McCarthy warns that switching to renewables alone will not solve the UK’s energy problems, however. “This is about a range of things that come together,” he explains. “This is 40 percent lifestyle, 40 percent efficiency—and renewables can only help with the rest. When you see how much some people waste, you need to tell them to start there.”

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.