The West’s leading green energy pioneer said small wind turbines are giving wind energy a bad name because they are poorly designed and “risk undermining the credibility” of wind energy.
Dale Vince, who built his first wind turbine 18 years ago near Stroud and now runs Ecotricity, said his firm was switching its attention to making a new kind of small windmill, to save the industry from criticism of wind power.
Mr Vince, who has used some of his green energy wealth to buy up Forest Green Rovers FC, said a new kind of British designed wind turbine, called the Urbine, could be the saviour of the wind power industry, amid attacks from anti-wind protesters who claim turbines are too inefficient to be worth erecting.
Mr Vince said large-scale wind turbines, like the ones he is still battling to build next to the M5 in Gloucestershire and Somerset, are fine, but smaller “micro-windmills” that are bought and erected with little planning fuss on buildings, schools, farms and homes are not efficient.
That is because they are merely scaled-down versions of big turbines, and their lack of efficiency and poor design quality “risked undermining the credibility of wind energy”.
“Most micro windmills on the market are simply scaled down versions of large wind turbines and that is a mistake,” said Mr Vince. “We don’t want people getting disillusioned and becoming sceptical about renewable energy because they buy a small windmill and it doesn’t work as well as it could.
“Large windmills rotate on a horizontal axis and do a great job because they turn themselves to track prevailing winds, but our 20 years of experience have shown us that closer to the ground and in more built-up areas, you get different conditions with the wind constantly changing direction,” he added.
His new Urbine micro-wind turbine is about to be tested next to Ecotricity’s first wind turbine, near Nailsworth, before undergoing more official performance certification tests in Scotland. Mr Vince said it could be as much as 40 per cent more efficient than other small windmills.
“Small windmills with that horizontal design spend too much time searching for the wind,” he said.
“So we’ve created a British-designed, British-made micro windmill that is an excellent piece of engineering; it’s super-efficient and has great potential for the creation of new green jobs,” he added.
“It’s a really exciting time and the world is about to see a range of new green innovations emerge – machines that harness wind, wave and tidal power – and will once again have ‘Made in Britain’ stamped on them,” he said.