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Small wind turbines slammed

Small wind turbines, such as those attached to buildings, will not help the UK meet targets to cut home and office carbon emissions, engineers have warned.

A Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) report, written by Professor Doug King, said far greater cuts could be achieved in new buildings and in “retrofitting” old buildings by focusing on bringing energy use down through efficiency measures.

He said the construction industry will struggle to meet Government targets to make all new homes “zero-carbon” by 2016 - and all new buildings by 2020 - because of a lack of skills in understanding the energy use of buildings.

Long-term targets to cut UK emissions by 80% by 2050 will also be threatened without a “step change” in improving energy efficiency of existing properties, said Dr Scott Steedman of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The vast majority of the buildings to be occupied in 2050 are already built, and traditional methods of saving energy, such as loft insulation, will not deliver the reductions needed.

King said on-site renewable energy generation, like small wind turbines or solar panels, makes little contribution to tackling energy demand.

This kind of very expensive “eco-bling” achieves little or nothing, Prof King said.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Has anyone actually read the report which can be found for free here:

    http://www.raeng.org.uk/education/vps/pdf/Engineering_a_low_carbon_built_environment.pdf

    It seems like the NCE have just jumped on the mainstream media bandwagon again and published a load of rubbish. The article above misses the whole point of the report which highlights the lack of knowledge in field as the main drawback. There is no mention of the quoted "eco-bling" anywhere in the report so i've no idea where that has been drawn from.

    Good work NCE! keep it up.

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  • edit, corrected link -http://www.raeng.org.uk/education/vps/pdf/Engineering_a_low_carbon_built_environment.pdf

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  • I think this is the bit that was summarised as:

    "This kind of very expensive “eco-bling” achieves little or nothing"

    "Before renewable energy generation is even considered it is vital to ensure that buildings are as energy efficient as possible, otherwise the potential benefits are simply wasted in offsetting un-necessary consumption. Creative solutions to make buildings more energy efficient include basic techniques, known for thousands of years, such as using daylight, natural ventilation and thermal mass, where masonry is used to store heat and moderate temperature variations. However, with the application of scientific analysis through Building Engineering Physics, these aspects of a building's design can make a very substantial contribution to meeting the performance and comfort needs of the occupants without resorting to energy consuming building services installations."

    See... says the same thing really, but eco-bling is just so much more catchy. No doubt a phrase created by the same people that tried to convince us that Jedward really are very, very good. Honest!

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  • An important part of the report is on p18 under 'Research'. When important information is lost and mediocracy is promoted for commercial reasons, 'bling' will inevitably follow.

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  • I confess I've not read the report, so I can't comment on the accuracy of NCE's portrayal.
    However, regarding the point about the 'rights' or 'wrongs' of fitting small wind turbines I'd say this: it's unlikely an owner or developer will make such an investment 'in isolation' - in other words fitting a turbine indicates that the building's energy use has at least been a consideration, in which case other elements of the energy-use jigsaw such as efficiency are likely to have been addressed.
    So whilst I agree that better understanding of the factors in building energy efficiency - leading to better building development - is vital, I think we should welcome the sight of every small wind turbine as an indication that the importance of the issues is being recognised.

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