Small Scale Wind Energy

Being at the forefront of Atlantic Jet streams flowing easterly over North-West European, Ireland has a great wind resource and is one of the leading countries in terms of installed large scale wind capacity. Small scale wind can also be quite attractive in Ireland provided certain principles are adhered to. Sunstream Energy has over 10 years experience supplying and installing small scale-wind turbines for residential, farm and commercial applications in Ireland. We contend that a successful small wind scale project depends on four main factors;

  1. An exposed site with annual average wind speeds greater than 6 m/s (13.4 mph / 21.6 kph / 11.7 knots).
  2. A quality, well-designed and manufactured wind turbine compliant with the international small wind turbine standard IEC 61400-2.
  3. The turbine should be properly installed in accordance with best practice guidelines, e.g. UK Microgeneration scheme.
  4. Application – the steadier the on-site electrical load throughout the day and year then the more wind energy will be captured on-site and conversely less purchased from the grid. This factor can be enhanced during windy periods by switching on discretionary loads such as water immersion heating, refrigeration and battery charging for recycling electricity during slack wind periods.

Over the years we have advised some people against proceeding with a small scale wind project on the basis that their site is unsuitable and/or their electrical usage profile is concentrated in a daily narrow time span and to instead consider solar PV as a less expensive option. That being said, we have many satisfied wind customers whom we have provided with a diligent and responsible service over the past 10 years.

Small Scale Wind Turbine Technology – “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”

As the subheading hints, there are many different types and permutations of small wind turbine systems, some good and some not so good. We don’t wish to expand on this topic here, but do recommend a few simple guidelines to be aware of when considering a small wind turbine:
  1. Keep it simple: Beware of proponents of turbines with overly complex electro-mechanical control systems delivering superior performance. Usually, such systems require more frequent and relatively expensive maintenance to keep in good order over the service life of the turbine. In our experience, it is better in the long term to lose a little in pure performance in turn for robust reliability and lower cost of ownership over the 20+ year service life of the turbine.
  2. Over-speed control in storms is the single most important attribute to the survival of all wind turbines. This is particularly relevant to small wind turbines not alone for survival but also for safety reasons. A well-designed control system with few or no moving parts is always safer and more dependable than a complicated system with many moving parts.
  3. Always seek references from small wind turbine owners with a number of years experience as this is the best quality indicator.

We will be glad to advise further. Some examples of our small wind turbine installations can be seen in the “Projects” section.