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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Ian Brenkley

The opportunity for growth for small wind microgeneration in the UK

This thesis examines the barriers to entry faced by private individuals looking to install a wind turbine, principally up to 6kW for their personal use.  Through analysis of secondary evidence of the “micro wind” market (up to 1.5kW) and primary evidence of the “small wind” market (up to 15kW) the main barriers to entry are identified.  Both markets are driven by consumers wishing to mitigate their impact on the environment and promote sustainability.  The micro wind market is driven predominantly by those wishing to make a public statement about their environmental concerns whereby the small wind market is driven more by economics.

There is very little information charting in-situ performance of small wind turbines and information provided by manufacturers and distributors, particularly in the micro wind sector is often found to be misleading.  The lack of independent verifiable performance data risks leading to a public scepticism that the performance estimates of large scale wind is equally deceptive.  The government itself appears to be no better informed about the actual performance of wind microgeneration and disproportionately supports micro wind at the expense of the more economic and environmentally sustainable small wind.

It is proposed that a government led research programme establish performance data of all commissioned turbines for microgeneration and use this to reassess grant funding.  It also recommends simplifying the Renewables Obligation accreditation process for micro wind and re-banding of the Renewables Obligation to categorise microgeneration separately to larger scale wind.  In combination with a proactive information campaign targeting those who could most benefit, such as farmers and rural communities, these measures provide an opportunity to increase greater awareness of the benefits of small wind, boost British industry as well as help the UK towards meeting its emissions reductions targets.