Wind Power - in my back yard?

Tuesday 4th January, 2011
I think we're all familiar with the wind turbines used in electricity generation. They're popping up in numerous places now, one of the main obstacles is getting planning permission from the local council. Despite many people being quite in favour of renewable energy, there's a huge NIMBY factor - essentially, whenever anybody wants to put one up, there's a strong cry on Not In My Back Yard from the locals and the project gets stopped.

Putting them out in the country can get even more complaints, as there is a subjective view that they ruin the outlook on areas of natural beauty and will devalue property prices.

So what's the solution?

My idea is pretty outside of the box but the few people whom I have discussed it with seem to agree that it's pretty sound in principal - so I figured it was time to throw the idea out there.

To explain it easier, take a look at the image below.
(Thanks to zimpenfish on flickr for the original photo)

It's a common site in urban areas - an ugly, run down block of flats from the 70's. There's one of these towering over my local town centre and everybody agrees that it is an eyesore. They're also becoming dangerous, some catch fire and others are simply falling apart. These 40yr old concrete structures should have been replaced a long time ago.

These council blocks have some unique properties. They're in the cheapest, most run down, part of town but can be seen for miles around. Nobody particularly wants to live next to them and the surrounding properties have lesser value as a result. They're also right in an area of dense population that uses the most power.

So what's my idea?

Well, a picture tells a thousands words....
(Thanks to rightee on twitter for the original turbine photo, and Ian Moss of Pixelfinity for artist's impressions)

So my plan would be to create a project to replace high rise estates with modern wind farms. Utilities would be asked to bid on the site and this cash would be used to provide replacement social housing. Once all the tenants are re-housed, ownership of the tower block would be transferred to the power company who would demolish the old tower block and put a wind turbine in its place.

Nobody would end up living next to a high rise structure who wasn't already - arguably, the view from their windows would even improve. The old, increasingly dangerous, 70's tower blocks would be removed from our landscape and new local authority housing built without using tax-payer's money. Finally, the local towns could be using more greener, renewable energy.

I'm really struggling to see a problem with this plan. The existing tower blocks are already in the worst areas, next to railways, trunk roads and industrial estates. They need replacing and the government lacks funding to do so. Win, win, win.

  1. 1) LeafTalk UK Said: (05/01/2011 14:51:21 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Wind Power - in my back yard?

    I think that's a great idea.

    The only possible problem I can think of is noise level. How much noise does one of those turbines emit?

  2. 2) Ben Rose Said: (05/01/2011 14:57:09 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Wind Power - in my back yard?

    Already considered it, and it's certainly a factor, but can people in properties adjacent to railways and trunk roads really make a reasonable argument about noise?

  3. 3) Michael Boxwell Said: (05/01/2011 15:53:43 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Wind Power - in my back yard?

    It is a good idea in principle. Noise would not be an issue because modern day wind turbines are very quiet indeed. The problem is actually with sunlight.

    In a built up area, you can have problems with the blades of these large turbines causing a flashing sensation to nearby properties when the sun is shining. This can be extremely unpleasant and can cause headaches and nausea.

    So long as a full shading analysis is taken into account, then the idea certainly has merit.

  4. 4) kidmarc Said: (16/01/2011 13:54:19 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Wind Power - in my back yard?

    "I'm really struggling to see a problem with this plan."

    Let me see if I can help. :) The idea is fine. The implementation has a problem especially if you take the picture literally. HAWT's (Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines) aren't good for urban settings. VAWT's (Vertical Axis Wind Turbines) are. With wind being regional, the right tool for the job is a must, to have the effect you are looking for. With VAWT's (the best one for your idea -- ), you have the option of using the current infrastructure (the existing building) or creating a new one. The existing building can be modified to house equipment and storage for the wind turbines, a vertical farm ( { Link } ), or a biofuel farm ( { Link } ).

    There is also a wind amplifier and power generator ( { Link } ).

  5. 5) kidmarc Said: (16/01/2011 13:57:24 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Forgot main link...

    Best VAWT for urban settings = { Link }

  6. 6) Joe Said: (27/02/2011 13:18:35 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Wind Power - in my back yard?

    I don't know, the only moving structures in cities at the moment are large observation wheels. Having a wind turbine that weighs a considerable amount, and spins at a reasonable RPM may cause some H&S concerns...

    Besides which, it's probably not going to get peak power from the turbine (if it was always really windy people wouldn't want to live there!), and you're like to fit one good sized one in place of a block of flats. That would produce ~3MW max, which in terms of a town/cities consumption is hardly anything anyway!

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