Building-integrated wind turbine is the most “in thing” in the field of wind power these days. Electricity is being produced right where it is needed, eliminating the transmission problem. Putting wind turbines on top of buildings — especially tall buildings — allows you to take advantage of height without an expensive, full-size tower. Despite all the advantages that building-integrated wind offers, there are many reasons that put a question mark to its effectiveness.
The founder of the US company Bergey Turbines, Mike Bergey, does not recommend mounting turbines on building and wishes “ people would stop asking us about mounting turbines on buildings” Bergey turbines have been mounted on the Green building in Dublin and encountered problems: the blades cracked – probably due to turbulence loading- and were replaced by new ones by Proven.
• Poor performance due to high turbulence: The ideal wind-turbine performance is attained by strong laminar winds, in which all of the air flows in a single direction. However, tall buildings face more turbulence than steady wind. Even if it is really windy on top of a building, it’s not necessary that it is steady laminar wind.
• Noise and vibration: these two are the greatest hurdles in the path of integrating wind turbines into building structures. Engineers are still working on this problem, but the ideal solution is still awaited. The truth is that some wind turbines are a lot quieter than the other, but still there is no such perfectly noiseless turbine. Little thought is ever given to building structure.
• Risk to public life: A wind turbine can break down due to an unexpected reason, even if all precautions are taken and sometimes the failure can be catastrophic. If a building mounted wind turbines falls or disintegrates due to a catastrophic failure, there is a serious risk to people and property.
• Insurance: Since this technology is in its initial years of development, fitting turbines to buildings presents a largely unknown risk. Building’s insurance premiums are likely to increase. Not only the simple building insurance, the insurance issues go beyond through to the Professional Indemnity Insurance for Engineers and other professionals.
• Cost-effectiveness: Compared to the large free-standing wind turbines which provide the least expensive renewable electricity today, small wind turbines are far less cost effective. Mounting them on top of buildings further increases the costs and drops the production.
• Poor measured performance: most of the manufacturers producing these systems either claim not to have such data or are unwilling to share it. The reason behind this may be that actual electricity production is much worse than expected.
• Threat to birds: The building-integrated wind turbines commit the same sin as the other free-standing wind turbines. The blades of the wind turbine hit birds who attempt to fly between them.
However, I would like to add here that with oil prices sky high and the world more concerned than ever regarding state of the environment, this technology can come really handy. More efforts should be put in to eliminate the potential drawbacks of building-integrated wind turbines.