'Green Power for All'
24 November 2003
company claims its domestic wind unit can provide
15% of average household's electricity needs
The winds of change will blow a little stronger this morning when a
small Scottish company launches Britain's first wind power system
designed to be fitted on almost any roof or wall to supplement
electricity from the grid.
Just two days after Britain's biggest offshore wind farm started
generating electricity off the north Wales coast, the designers of the
tiny domestic unit believe they can provide up to 15% of the annual
electricity needs of an average house for a one-off cost of £750 --
bringing green electricity into the price range of most families.
The machine, a 3ft by 2ft sealed box with three blades which face into
the prevailing wind, is backed by the energy minister, Brian Wilson, who
is a paid consultant for Windsave, the company behind it.
Unlike old-style domestic wind generators, which needed a lot of land,
sat on top of poles and drove pumps and a few bulbs for farmers and
backwoodsmen, the machine does not need batteries to store the
electricity. Instead, it tops up the existing mains supply.
Unlike bigger systems, it cannot sell excess power back into the grid.
But the company believes it has cracked the holy grail of renewable
energy -- getting government subsidies and making the machines silent.
In theory, there are handouts both for installation and for "Rocs" --
renewable obligation charges -- which currently pay green electricity
providers about 6p per kilowatt-hour generated.
The system, says the Scottish inventor David Gordon, who has pumped 1m
into the idea, can generate up to 750 watts -- enough to power lights but
not high-energy items such as kettles or heaters.
"Nobody has been able to take raw wind power and put it straight into
the domestic electrical system at 240 volts," he said. "We will be able
to bring green energy to the masses."
Mr Wilson, who has declared his interest in the company on the House of
Commons register and has no financial share in it, was enthusiastic. "I
have looked at it upside down and sideways for a catch and I don't think
there is one. The amazing thing is its affordability.
"It will be a few hundred quid, you do your bit for the environment, and
you get a cheque back once a year. What more can you want? It's been
though all the standard checks and everyone who's seen it is of the same
Mr Gordon admits that his invention is not as technically efficient as
turbines sited on high poles to collect the optimum wind, but says that
it is the annual supplementing of household electricity which makes it
suitable for buildings. The machine starts working at a wind speed of
3mph and is said to be most efficient in a 20mph breeze -- common for
much of the year across large parts of Britain.
Using the remote metering technology which made Mr Gordon's fortune
after he sold his company to BT, each unit installed will be
automatically phoned every quarter to see how much electricity it has
The company will then collect the subsidy from the government and
distribute it back to owners according to how much they have generated.
"We believe the payback period could be as little as 30 months," said Mr
The British Wind Energy Association, which represents large-scale
windpower generators, professed itself amazed at the development. "If it
works, it's fantastic," said spokeswoman Alison Hill.
Yesterday it was provisionally backed by
Country Guardian, the lobby
group which has opposed almost every planning application submitted for
windpower development in Britain in the past decade.
"I think they are a good idea. I don't think they'll look very
beautiful, but we always feel that it's the people in cities who use the
power and that we in the country have to pay the price," said Ann Evans,
Local planners may be divided about whether the innovations need
planning permission. Technically, they do not, says Mr Gordon, if they
are sited below the highest point of houses. But many local authorities
and heritage groups objected strongly at first to satellite dishes, and
may not want to see large boxes with spinning blades put up.
The machines are to be made outside Edinburgh. Local authorities,
government offices and light industry will be targeted first, followed
by householders in about three months.