Page last updated at 01:49 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 02:49 UK

Wind turbine grant testing urged

Wind turbine
The study shows rural areas tend to deliver more energy than urban ones

Grants for homeowners who want to install small wind turbines should assess whether the structure saves carbon emissions, a report has said.

The Carbon Trust study says turbines in urban homes may not generate enough electricity to counter CO2 emissions created by their manufacture and use.

It said grant schemes should consider whether the likely carbon savings of small wind turbines are "reasonable".

Homeowners can apply for a grant of up to 2,500 to install the technology.

Not-for-profit and public sector organisations can apply for up to half the installation costs.

The government said it was working to ease planning rules for small turbines.

The Carbon Trust study, which used Met Office research, revealed that rural areas could deliver four times as much electricity and carbon savings as in cities and towns.

We are currently working to ease the planning rules for small wind turbines so more homeowners can install them
Malcolm Wicks
Energy minister

As a result of wind speeds being generally higher in rural areas, installations in some parts of the countryside could provide electricity which was competitive in terms of cost with grid power.

Cathy Durston, head of consulting at the Met Office, said the research had "shed new light on the best locations for turbines to be installed".

"Wind speeds vary considerably and since speed is the key determinant of power, the performance of small wind turbines is very sensitive to their location," she said.

However, the study suggested that in urban areas roof-mounted turbines may not even pay back the carbon emitted during their production, installation and operation.

The Trust said wind turbine manufacturers should also have a carbon-labelling system for their products to enable consumers to see the carbon emissions associated with the technology.

Among the recommendations put forward by the Carbon Trust was a call for higher height limits for free-standing turbines, of above 11 metres (36ft), which are allowed without planning permission under permitted development rights.

Climate change

The aim would be to enable people to best capture the available wind resources.

In theory, small-scale wind energy could generate some 41.3 terawatt hours of electricity - 12% of UK electricity consumption - and save 17.8 million tonnes of carbon a year in the UK, according to the report's authors.

However, with current electricity prices and the cost of small wind turbines, a fraction of that is deliverable.

The study estimates that if 10% of households had turbines, they could produce 0.4% of total UK energy consumption and save 600,000 tonnes of emissions a year.

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said "Small-scale power generation like wind turbines" had the ability to "turn the concerned individual in to an active citizen in the fight against climate change".

"We are currently working to ease the planning rules for small wind turbines so more homeowners can install them with the minimum of fuss," he said.

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