When we think of wind turbines, the image is usually of a monster windmill on a windy hilltop, generating megawatts of electricity. But as one element of a variety of schemes to make our houses more energy-efficient — along with good insulation, combined heat and power gas central heating, and solar panels — comes the micro-wind turbine. This is a tiny version of its big brother, one that can be fixed to a convenient chimney or roof. They’ve been around for ages on sailing boats and in some countries, especially the USA, have become popular in rural areas away from power supplies as ways of powering devices such as electric fences or public telephones. But recently they have started to be promoted for domestic use in urban areas in countries such as Britain. Objectors argue that it takes too long to get back the cost of installation and that high average wind speeds are required, which are often not available in heavily built-up areas.
Existing mini-turbines sit on a pole at the bottom of the garden and are useless for townies. However, new micro-wind turbines, no bigger than a TV aerial or satellite dish, which can be mounted on a roof, are expected to be available from the middle of next year.
the Guardian, 20 Nov. 2004