Two Reasons Why Small-Scale Wind Power is a Great Investment

Small-scale wind power systems can achieve very competitive upfront costs because they require less specialized components compared with larger wind turbines. Also, the UK and other countries with a Feed-in Tariff tend to offer the best incentives for smaller installations.

Feasibility studies for small-scale wind power installations tend to be expensive, when viewed as a percentage of total project cost. However, the WindLogger kit from Logic Energy allows site assessments to be carried out for just a fraction of their normal cost. A feasibility study can make the difference between a highly lucrative project and a wasted investment!

Reason #1: Small-Scale Wind Power is Affordable

Renewable energy systems tend to achieve a lower cost per installed kilowatt as system size increases, thanks to economies of scale. However, this is not always true for wind power: the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) carried out a study for renewable energy technologies in 2015, and they determined that small wind power systems with an installed capacity between 50 and 100 kilowatts can achieve installed costs in the range of £500/kW to £1500/kW, which is comparable to the average price of multi-megawatt systems. There are several factors that make small-scale wind power affordable:

  • Small wind turbines don’t require large concrete foundations to support wind loads and equipment weight. This offers considerable savings in associated construction work.
  • Small turbines are often mounted on generic masts and lattice towers that have many other applications and are commercially available. In larger turbines, on the other hand, the mast must be custom-built at a dedicated facility.
  • Off-the-shelf generators and other electrical components can be used in small wind turbines, while larger turbines required dedicated equipment that must be ordered specifically for a project and can’t be handled with ease.

Reason #2: Small-Scale Wind Power gets Better Incentives

Countries with strong renewable energy portfolios typically introduce incentives for small-scale energy producers. Feed-in tariffs are a common incentive, and in the case of wind power in the UK, the best rates are available for systems under 100 kW of capacity.

  • There is a generation tariff, which is paid to all owners of clean power systems based on total kWh production. The generation tariff is paid regardless of whether the energy is consumed or exported to the power grid.
  • When energy is sent to the grid, and additional export tariff is paid on top of the generation tariff for extra income.

In the UK, all renewable sources have a fixed export tariff of 4.85 p/kWh, but the generation tariff changes according to technology, and in the case of wind power small systems get the best deal:

Wind Power System Size

Generation Tariff

Under 100 kW

8.53 p/kWh

Between 100 kW and 1.5 MW

5.46 p/kWh

Over 1.5 MW

0.83 p/kWh

If viewed on a per-kilowatt basis, small wind power systems are far more lucrative in the UK. The DECC has also determined that the average installed cost per kilowatt is similar under 100 kW and above 1.5 MW, which means the payback period is much faster with small systems.

  • A small wind power system can make up to 13.38 p/kWh when the generation and export tariff are added.
  • If energy is consumed locally the tariff is only 8.53 p/kWh, but savings are also achieved by not having to purchase that energy from the grid.
  • On the other hand, the most you can expect to make with a system over 1.5MW is 5.68 p/kWh, which is nearly 60% less.
  • Assuming the same cost per kilowatt, the larger system has a payback period that is at least twice as long.

In short, small-scale wind power makes the most sense if you want to achieve the maximum economic benefit from the technology. With WindLogger, you can carry out a site assessment at a low cost, ensuring that your investment will provide the expected return.

Example: A Cash Flow Projection

Assume you install a 50-kW wind turbine for your property, with the following characteristics:

  • An installed cost of £1,500/kW, for a total of £75,000.
  • A capacity factor of 20%
  • 20% of the energy is consumed, 80% is exported to the grid.

In this scenario, you could expect a first year profit of around £13,500, and the cash flow over the project’s lifetime would be the following:

Cash projections for small wind turbine

A payback period of slightly over 5 years can be expected, and after having paid for its own cost, the wind power system offers total savings of around £250,000. This investment offers an internal rate of return of 19.2%, which is very attractive.

Of course, keep in mind this is just an example: The best way to ensure your property is suitable for wind power is to carry out measurements with a reliable weather monitoring system such as the WindLogger kit.

More information can be found on DECC website.

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