How to switch to renewable energy

Advantages and disadvantages of wind energy


In Northern Ireland wind energy is the most common renewable energy technology and it's also one of the most financially viable options.

Wind energy is generated using turbines which capture the natural power of the wind to drive a generator. The large wind farms seen around the countryside generally supply electricity to the national grid. However, the availability of a variety of turbine types and sizes means that you can generate your own electricity supply for use onsite.

The two main turbine types available are:

  • Free-standing turbines, which are available in a range of sizes and can be used singularly or in groups. Small free-standing turbines are already in use at businesses throughout Northern Ireland.
  • Building-mounted turbines, which are usually installed on roofs. These are not currently widely used, although new designs are beginning to appear.

Advantages of wind energy

  • Wind turbines will work well across most of Northern Ireland. Turbines will operate from low wind speeds of about 4 metres per second (m/s) but the most successful projects are in areas with an average wind speed of 7m/s or above.
  • It is one of the most financially viable renewable energy options and this is improving as the technology develops. The payback period for large, free-standing turbines is typically four to eight years.
  • Wind energy could generate a significant proportion of your electricity needs.

Disadvantages of wind energy

  • Wind turbine developments often meet significant local opposition at the planning stage due to their visual impact.
  • If there is no wind, the turbines don't generate any electricity. This is known as an intermittent technology. You would need a national grid connection for back-up.

Installing a wind power development

You must apply for planning permission from your local divisional planning office if you want to build a wind power development.

To get planning permission you must complete an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) if:

  • you plan to construct three or more turbines
  • the hub height of any of your turbines, or any other associated structure, exceeds 15 metres

Find information about EIAs.

Generating wind energy in conservation areas

If the site you want to develop is in a conservation or protected area, you must inform NIEA.

Protected areas can include:

  • Areas of Special Scientific Interest
  • areas of outstanding natural beauty
  • special areas of conservation
  • special protection areas

Find out if your proposed site is in or near a protected area.

If your site has archaeological or architectural interest you must inform NIEA.

Good practice for wind energy generation

Wind turbines can generate noise. To limit and control noise you should:

  • use a low noise turbine design
  • monitor your turbine to make sure you are not causing a nuisance
  • locate your turbines away from the boundaries of your site

See how to avoid causing noise pollution, odour and other nuisances.