Councils are wasting millions of pounds on wind turbines that are not working or will take hundreds of years to repay because they are generating as little as £13 worth of energy a month.
Local authorities spent hundreds of thousands of pounds installing the turbines in an effort to meet renewable energy targets.
However, some have not produced any energy at all in the last year because of faults, a Freedom of Information request disclosed.
Some turbines generate so little energy they would take hundreds of years to repay their original value. Experts argue that the failure of some wind turbines to recoup their value shows how small wind turbines are a poor way to generate renewable energy.
In Eastleigh, Hampshire a turbine costing almost £30,000 was installed in 2005. Last year the turbine generated 520 kilowatt hours of energy (kWh).
Taking 30p as the average price of energy per kWh under the feed-in tariff, this turbine generates £156 worth of energy a year or just £13 a month. At this rate it would take 190 years to repay its original cost.
In Leeds a wind turbine costing £62,000 was installed in 2009 in an inner city sports complex, but generated no energy last year due to faults.
In Derbyshire, a turbine costing £89,000 was installed in 2004 but has failed to produce any energy since September 2011 due to a fault.
The council said it was “disappointed” adding that the company which supplied the turbine no longer existed.
In Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire the council spent £30,000 on two turbines, which generated 477kWh of electricity last year.
These turbines are on a lower tariff, which varies between 10.21p and 3.3p per kWh, and produced £73.94 worth of power last year, a rate that would take 405 years to recoup their value.
However, the council said the “meter wasn’t operating properly” and it usually produces 3,478 kWh, but this still means it would take more than 55 years to repay its cost.
Dr John Constable, director at the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), said the poor performance of wind turbines showed how they were an ineffective form of renewable energy.
He said: “Wind energy is an experiment, and sometimes the lessons learnt are hard and dearly bought. The truth is that foolishly ambitious targets and silly levels of subsidy have overheated the wind industry, resulting in defective technologies and poor installations.”
He said smaller turbines, which cover the turbines given in the responses, are usually only expected to last between ten and 15 years.
Of the handful of local authorities that responded to the freedom of information request about council-owned wind turbines, only three authorities had wind turbines that would take less than 10 years to generate enough to repay their original cost.
Rushcliffe council said it had looked at ways to increase efficiency but found the wind speed was “relatively low” for the site. It also admitted due to “unexpected” high maintenance costs and low generation rates “it is unlikely the council will make a financial saving within the anticipated lifespan of the turbine”.
Other authorities admitted their wind turbines are not producing the energy expected. Two turbines in Staffordshire were installed at a cost of £48,545 in 2011. Last year they produced 12,986kWh. Under the feed-in-tariff this will take more than 12 years to repay.
Mark Winnington, cabinet member for economy and infrastructure at the council, said tests were ongoing as “energy output is lower than expected.”
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