Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions


Is Northern Ireland windy?

Our province is one of the windiest areas in Europe. However, it currently produces just 6% of its electricity using renewable resources. The Government wants to see this figure rise to 40% by 2020. As a result, there will be guaranteed long-term, continuous investment in the wind sector to ensure it meets its targets set by the European Commission. This long-term government commitment guarantees wind power as a sound long term investment.

Would my land be suitable for a wind turbine?

An initial assessment will help establish if your site is suitable. Please click here for more information about this.

How big is a wind turbine?

Wind turbines can range from 15m right the way up to 125m in height. The bigger the turbine the greater power is produced.

What are wind turbines made of?

The towers are mostly tubular and made of steel. The blades are made of fibreglass-reinforced polyester or wood-epoxy.

How much electricity can one wind turbine generate?

The ability to generate electricity is measured in watts. A watt is a very small amount so these are scaled to KW and MW when we talk about wind turbines.

1000 watts = 1KW (kilowatt)
1000KW = 1MW (megawatt)

The output of a wind turbine depends on the turbine’s size and the wind’s speed through the rotor. Wind turbines being manufactured now have power ratings ranging from 250 watts to 6 megawatts (MW).

Wind speed is a crucial element in projecting turbine performance, and a site’s wind speed is measured through wind resource assessment prior to a wind system’s construction.

How many homes can one megawatt of wind energy supply?

An average UK household uses about 5000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year. One megawatt of wind energy can generate from 2.4 to more than 3 million kWh annually. Therefore, a megawatt of wind generates about as much electricity as 450 to 600 households use

Are wind turbines noisy?

Wind turbines are not noisy. If you stand directly under one, you will hear a “swooshing” sound as the blades cut through the air. Noise was an issue with some early wind turbine designs, but it has been largely eliminated as a problem through improved engineering and through appropriate use of setbacks from nearby residences. To put this into perspective, a wind turbine 300 meters away is no noisier than the reading room of a library!

What is the Renewables Obligation (RO)?

The RO is the main support scheme for renewable electricity projects in the UK. It places an obligation on UK suppliers of electricity to source an increasing proportion of their electricity from renewable sources.

A Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC) is a green certificate issued to an accredited generator for eligible renewable electricity generated within the United Kingdom and supplied to customers within the United Kingdom by a licensed electricity supplier. One ROC is issued for each megawatt hour (MWh) of eligible renewable output generated.

Northern Ireland government now offer 4 ROCs per MWH, click here for further information.

Do wind turbines frighten livestock?

Wind farming is very popular with farmers. Sheep, cows and horses are not disturbed by wind turbines.

How does a wind turbine make electricity?

Wind turbines operate on a simple principle. The energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to create electricity. This describes the conversion of kinetic energy into electrical energy, just like a an alternator in your car.

How strong does the wind have to blow for the wind turbines to work?

A typical wind speed required to generate electricity would be 4m/s to 5m/s. Some new wind turbines can now start operating at wind speeds as low as 3 m/s.

How much space do wind turbines require?

Wind turbines require very little space indeed. In most wind farms, only 1% of the land is taken up by the turbines, the other 99% free to be used for whatever purpose.

What happens when the wind stops blowing?

When the wind stops blowing, electricity continues to be provided by the grid by traditional methods, such as fossil fuel burning. When the wind picks up, turbines will start generating power again.

However the ebb and flow of the wind is not a sudden on off scenario as power stations are and because most larger turbines are grid connected the grid will receive power from whichever turbines are being turned by the wind. It is not very often that the entire country is without wind. In fact, the “Friends of the Earth” wind power leaflet shows just how closely electricity demand matches the supply from wind farms.

How long do wind turbines last?

A wind turbine typically lasts around 20-30 years. To achieve this life span, the turbine will require servicing 1 -2 times per annum.

What happens when a wind farm is taken down/decommissioned?

This is at the discretion of the local authority. Typically, all visible traces of the wind farm are to be removed and the site put back to the way it was prior to the development. A much more simple and safer process than decommissioning a nuclear power station, or a coal or gas fired plant!

Why is there sometimes opposition to wind energy projects?

Local opposition to proposed wind farms usually arises because some people perceive the development will spoil the view they are used to. It is true that a large wind farm can be a significant change, but while some people express concern about the effect wind turbines have on the beauty of our landscape, others see them as elegant and beautiful, or symbols of a better, less polluted future.

The visual effect of wind farms is a subjective issue, but most of the other criticisms made about wind energy today are exaggerated or untrue. They simply reflect attempts by particular groups to discredit the technology, worry local communities, and turn them against proposed projects. In the electronic age, myths and misinformation about wind power spreads at lightning speed.