The vertical-axis windmill, called the Urbine, will undergo six months testing in Stroud, Gloucestershire next to Ecotricity’s existing large wind turbine, before undergoing official performance certification at Myres Hill wind turbine test site in Scotland.

Owner of Ecotricity, Dale Vince, said after 20 years of working in wind power he decided to step into the micro wind sector because the poor design quality of windmills risked undermining the credibility of wind energy.

Vince explained that most micro windmills on the market are simply scaled down versions of large wind turbines which is a “mistake”.

“Large windmills rotate on a horizontal axis and do a great job because they turn themselves to track the prevailing winds, but our 20 years of experience have shown us that closer to the ground and in more built up areas, you get completely different conditions with the wind constantly changing direction. 

“Micro windmills with that horizontal design spend too much time searching for the wind. A vertical-axis turbine, such as the Urbine, doesn’t care which direction the wind comes from, so is perfect for the more challenging wind conditions where micro windmills get installed,” added Vince.

He expressed concern that people might become disillusioned and sceptical about renewable energy because of the inefficiency of current micro windmills.

Vince’s comments follow speculation over the safety of large scale turbines after two collapsed in strong winds. One turbine in north Cornwall fell to the ground on January 30, and the other collapsing in Devon on January 27.

However, many in the wind industry are suspecting the incidents could be the result of sabotage by those opposed to the development of wind farms.

Despite the reports, Vince was optimistic about the future of renewables and the UK’s position as a strong contributor of renewable technology.

“It’s a really exciting time and the world is about to see a range of new green innovations emerge – machines that harness wind, wave and tidal power – and will once again have ‘Made in Britain’ stamped on them,” he said.

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie