How much do commercial wind turbines cost?

This article sets out costs and benefits of installing micro/commercial wind turbines.

So you are keen to install some form of wind turbine technology so your business can benefit from a sustainable, endless energy source. 

But how much does it cost and how do you do it? Having your own wind energy supply is a great asset for your business. In this article, we show you how to get started and what the costs might be.

What type of turbine is best?

The best turbine for your business is going to be one that will generate enough wind energy in the long run to pay back however much you spend on the model itself. The cost of the model depends on MW size, installation and any planning permission you may need.

Turbines differ in height, as well as whether they are stand-alone or roof-mounted. It is important to understand these specifics, and companies such as Britwind provide in-depth information. Roof-mounted turbines are more suitable for urban areas as they benefit from the height of the building itself and they are easier to install, connecting directly to the building’s electrics. However, they won’t generate the same amount of power as a stand-alone system which would be harder to install. 

Before judging the cost, it is really important to first check the wind speed around the building or location where you would like the turbine to be installed. While doing this, it is useful to look at the possibility of also installing Solar PV technology depending on typical weather around your property.

A typical 5kW wind turbine system costs around £23,500, while a PV solar system of similar power output can cost around £10,000 but again, due to weather and seasons, a wind turbine may be much more effective.

It’s also important to consider your business model. For example, if your business consumes energy 24/7, then a wind turbine generating overnight will be much more beneficial than solar.  

Turbines tend to need a speed of 5m/sec and you can use an anemometer to investigate this. You can buy these online on Amazon or pay for readings from a professional. There are maps to show average speeds around the UK but it is key to investigate the micro-climate of your property yourself in order to get an exact understanding of conditions and obstacles such as other buildings that may decrease wind speed.

Assuming the wind speed around the property is above 5m/sec, you can now judge if you need a smaller turbine better suited for slower winds or a larger, and more advanced model is best. It is also important to consider how much maintenance costs. Britwind, for example, has their own monitoring software you can use but maintenance professionals are at an additional cost. 

How much do commercial wind turbines cost?

The cost of wind turbines depends on multiple factors such as component type and local availability. As a capital investment, the installation and long-term maintenance will cost your business but should create savings in the long run. These savings benefits are greatest in rural areas, primarily because of greater wind speed. Typically the actual turbine costs 69% of the total project. This means that separate costs like building a foundation, cable infrastructure and connecting to the grid can increase costs. Below are diagrams showing the average cost split differences between installing in an urban versus rural area. 

Source: Carbon Trust 

Smaller turbines generating around 2,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) per year cost between £2,000 to £6,000 while purchasing and installing larger units could take the price up to £20,000 or more but these models will generate more power: around 9,000 kWh per year. Larger turbines generate just above 40MWh per year which is about the equivalent of powering a factory for a year. Roof-mounted turbines are certainly the cheapest to buy (as low as £1,000) but produce the least energy.

Wind Turbine Payback Period

Let’s look at a super simple example of what this could look like for your business. Below we’ve taken some rough assumptions to see what it could look like. This is ignoring any secondary benefits such as feed-in tariffs or battery storage, which would change the payback rate and proposition.  

As of October 2022, new energy supplier contracts are coming through at around 70p – 80p per kWh for electricity.

Running a light industrial unit consuming 20,000kWh per year therefore will cost £16,000 per year including daily charges in electricity (based on a quote obtained from EDF).  

Installing a 5kW wind system such as Britwind R9000 will cost around £25,000 and generate 10,000kWh, or half of your annual usage. With an install cost of £25,000, it would reduce your energy bills by £8,000 per year, and break even in just over 3 years.

There are some assumptions we’ve based these figures on.

Assumptions

ModelBritwind 9000FuturEnergy Air Force 1
Rating5kw1kw
Est Cost£25,000£3,000
Wind Speed6m/s6m/s
Annual Generation10,000kWh2,000kWh
Energy Price£0.80/kWh£0.80/kWh
Annual Electricity Saving£8,000£1,600
Potential Payback3 Years2 Years

Wind Turbine Payback Periods

Depending on the electricity unit cost, we’ve outlined some payback periods too:

Britwind 9000 FuturEnergy Air Force 1
£0.80 kWh 3 Years 2 Years
£0.60 kWh 4 Years 2-3 Years
£0.40 kWh 6 Years 4 Years
£0.20 kWh 13 Years 7 Years

Wind Vs Solar

As above, solar may be a better option for your premises but this really depends on your location in the country and the topography of your land, as well as your business energy consumption. As a rough rule, somewhere in the west of Scotland will be more suited to wind, while someone in the southeast of England will benefit from solar. 

Equally, if your business consumes energy 24/7 it’s much more likely that wind will be beneficial. If not, then battery storage may be a good fit, where you can capture energy overnight and release it during the day, further reducing your reliance on grid energy. This is especially true with current feed-in tariff rates. Without a battery you may be exporting to the grid at 10-15p per kWh overnight, only to buy energy the next day at 80p.

Below are some similar indicative payback periods for a best-case solar installation based in the southeast. 

Model4KW Solar12kW solar
Est Cost£6,000£14,000
LocationSouth EastSouth East
Install35 Degree roof, no shading, south facing35 Degree roof, no shading, south facing
Annual Generation3,800kWh11,000kWh
Annual Electricity Saving£3,040£8,800
Payback Period2 Years18 Months

Solar Payback Periods

Depending on the electricity unit cost, we’ve outlined some payback periods too:

4kW12kW
£0.80 kWh2 Years2 Years
£0.60 kWh3 Years3 Years
£0.40 kWh4 Years4 Years
£0.20 kWh8 Years6 Years

Do I need planning permission?

Rules on planning permission vary depending on what region in the UK you are based. Below are the key points depending on where in the UK your business is. 

Northern Ireland and Wales:

  • Any installations will need planning permission.

Scotland:

  • All building-mounted systems require planning permission.
  • Stand-alone systems do not need permission providing they meet the following points:
    • The system is not on a world heritage site.
    • It is built 100m or more from your nearest neighbor.
    • It is the only turbine system on the property.

England: 

  • Building-mounted turbines require planning permission if an air source heat pump is already installed.
  • The overall height of the building and turbine cannot exceed 15m. 
  • Stand-alone turbines must exceed a height of 11.1m.
  • The bottom of the blades must be at least 5m from the ground. 
  • The turbine site must not be in a Conservation Area, a World Heritage site, or in the grounds of a listed building.

The rules in England are more complicated; MSC Standards are a useful and necessary set of regulations and it is important to speak to your local council when investigating the legislation. Full Government guidance can also be found here

How are commercial wind turbines installed?

Once you know what type of turbine you are installing you can get on with installing and switching it on! 

Assess the site and investigate the optimum position which depends largely on the type of turbine you want to install as well as obstacles that affect wind flow. If you are looking to install a roof-mounted system then a structural analysis of the building needs to take place to see if it accommodates the turbine. 

For stand-alone turbines, foundations may have to be built and trenches for cables running to the control box and inverter. The UK Distribution Network Operator will likely need to be notified before installation in order to ensure the electrical connection to the grid is safe. However, your installer may deal with this for you.

How will my turbine pay me back?

The ease at which your turbine will pay you back depends on your energy consumption and the cost of the turbine. Let’s say your energy consumption costs your business around £7,000 per annum. You have investigated the property and there is enough wind speed to make a larger, stand-alone turbine viable. This could cost you £28,000 which would take four years of energy savings to pay itself back. 

Current energy price increases have made forms of sustainable energy generation more attractive. Having wind power to supplement your energy intake means you are less reliant on fluctuations and increases in energy prices coming directly from the National Grid. It is difficult to quantify these long-term savings but examples like Almost Off Grid illustrate savings SMEs can make with micro-scale sustainable energy technology. 

The cost of a wind turbine should also be compared to that of other green energy options like solar panels, or you could look at changing suppliers or securing a Green Energy Tariff

The use of wind turbines could have less direct benefits for your company such as improved customer reputation bringing you more business. Buyers in the future will be attracted to a greener supply chain and you will also be preparing businesses to be more resilient against future laws and legislation, and price rises.

Key Takeaways

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of the installation process and overall costs of a wind turbine for your business. To summarise: 

  • The greater the price of the turbine, the harder to install but the greater the energy produced in the long term.
  • Turbine systems are much better suited to rural areas. Remember to examine your current energy cost to understand the future savings a turbine can give you. 
  • There are wider benefits such as customer perception and cost reduction in using wind energy which will also contribute to your business.

Ultimately, prior research is fundamental to understanding what system or model is best for you so good luck and enjoy your next steps toward sustainability.

To get started we suggest:

  1. Measure the amount of wind energy on-site, using an anemometer or wind maps for your area
  2. Measure or gather historical data about your energy usage
  3. Check local planning permissions laws

Want an idea of how your business is doing right now? Take our Net Zero Scorecard and get a quick analysis of your biggest emission areas. We also plant 5 trees for every completed scorecard so you’ll already be having a positive impact!

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