Windsave went out of business on 4th September 2009. Unfortunately, this turbine is therefore no longer available. Find out more here.
The roof-mounted Windsave "plug-n-save" turbine system received a lot of publicity after breaking into the mainstream market with a partnership with DIY store B&Q.
But they also attracted a lot of criticism after their marketing exaggerated the outputs that are likely to be generated. (see below)
The current version of this wind turbine is the Windsave WS1200.
More on the B&Q deal
Leaflets in B&Q stores encourage people to "go green without going into the red" and the system has no batteries, no hassle, and sounds like an easy way to save money off your energy bills. It sounds great. But is it really?
In their leaflet B&Q say that wind turbines can provide "up to 30% of the electricity your household needs, based on average wind speeds and suitable locations". They also say that installing them is now an "easy and affordable option for almost every home". We think that is misleading. If your particular home is in a large urban area, and especially if you are surrounded by other houses and tall trees, then you're not going to get much power. It may be "easy", it may even be "affordable" (if by that you mean fairly cheap to buy), but if you're not in a windy place the economics and paybacks won't stack up.
Installed by experts
Their £1,498 price includes installation and they say your home will be surveyed first to make sure it is suitable. This is the interesting bit, because amongst all this excitement, there may well be quite a few people placing orders at the stores whose homes are actually entirely unsuitable - structurally, or in terms of wind speeds. What happens in this situation - do you get a refund from B&Q immediately? - it doesn't seem very clear.
They say that unless you live in a conservation area, you're "unlikely to need planning permission". If this were true, of course, it would be great, but the truth is that until the new legislation going through the House of Commons is complete, you will need to make sure with your local planning officer. On the leaflet, Windsave are careful to picture their turbines mounted below roof-line, (which means that under the law you probably won't need planning permission). In reality of course, your turbine needs to be as far above the roof line as you can get it to avoid the turbulence created by the building.
We've got no vested interest in slating Windsave and B&Q. In a way, you've got to admire them for the achievement of breaking into the mainstream market. But we're worried that these machines could disappoint a lot of enthusiastic members of the public, and could damage the reputation of the fledgling micro-renewables industry.
We're keen to hear from anyone who is thinking about, or has bought one of these systems. What have your experiences been - and how is the turbine working so far? Drop us a line!
Newsnight ethical man coverage
Newsnight's 'Ethical Man' (Justin Rowlatt) had various dealings with trying to get a Windsave installed on his London home, and was finally turned down because his site, obviously, was rather unsuitable.