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Last edited 08 Mar 2019
People have harnessed the power of the wind for thousands of years, and with the ever-increasing pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, wind energy is becoming a more important part of our generating mix.
Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy they harnesses from the wind and turn it into electrical energy. They are typically installed onshore, however increasingly they are also being installed offshore, where there is more frequent and powerful wind. The size of developments vary from generating power for individual households, farms or local communities, right up to large, commercial wind farms.
A commercial wind turbine will typically include the following components:
- Tower: The main body of the turbine, which is typically cylindrical, and can be up to 75 metres tall.
- Rotor blades: Usually a turbine will have between one and three blades made from fibreglass-reinforced polyester or wood-epoxy. They can be up to 80 metres in diameter and rotate between 10-30 times per minute.
- Yaw mechanism: This will rotate the turbine to face the direction of the wind.
- Wind speed and direction monitor: The wind direction is monitored with sensors and the tower head is turned to face the wind. At very high wind speeds, the turbines will be stopped to protect them from damage.
- Gear box: The majority of turbines are fitted with gear boxes but some now have direct drives.
 Small wind turbines
A small wind turbine will usually suit an individual household or smallholding and can generate up to 50kW. They are usually up to 35 metres in height, depending on the siting.
 Financial incentives
The generation of power through the installation of a wind turbine can help reduce electricity bills and the need for power station generation, and in some situations can qualify for the feed-in tariff scheme, under which consumers who generate their own electricity from a renewable or low-carbon source can qualify for a payment for each unit of electricity generated. Other applicable schemes include the Energy Efficiency Financing scheme, and previously, the Green Deal (cancelled in 2015).
In some situations, it is possible to install wind turbines at a property without the requirement for planning permission, as long as certain conditions are adhered to. This varies depending on factors including location, siting, type and so on. It is advisable to consult local authority to confirm the requirements. Further information can be found on the Planning Portal website.
In March 2019, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry announced the launch of a new joint government-industry Offshore Wind Sector Deal intended to supply a third of all UK electricity by 2030. Ref https://www.gov.uk/government/news/offshore-wind-energy-revolution-to-provide-a-third-of-all-uk-electricity-by-2030
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