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Arup claims BSkyB turbine is not 'token'

BSkyB’s new wind turbine is not ‘token’, says Arup Associates’ Mike Beavan

Arup Sky turbine

The prevailing view is that urban wind turbines are not economically viable. Remember it was just in 2010 that the ODA dropped the proposed 130m turbine from the Eton Manor site at the Olympic Park. So Footprint put to Arup Associates some additional questions about their new 18m wind turbine recently completed at the BSkyB Studio in west London. 

BSkyB’s initial brief for SkyStudios was for a sustainable HQ which would minimise energy use throughout and maximise the use of appropriate renewable energy on the  site. The building’s electricity supply is powered by wood chip-fired biomass CCHP, and waste energy is used to heat and cool the building.

‘A wind turbine was the only renewable which made sense. It is not token or notional,’ says Mike Beavan, the Arup Associates engineer responsible for the project. According to Beaven, embodied energy was calculated and considered in final the decision to proceed with the turbine. The ‘carbon payback’ for the turbine and its structure is estimated at 2.4 years.

BSKYB Wind Turbine-9

When asked what percentage of the building’s load is met by the wind turbine, Beavan explains that due to the building’s high intensity functions which include data centres and recording studios, it is misleading to represent the contribution of the wind turbine as a percentage of overall energy use. The turbine is predicted to produce approximately  133,100 kWh per year, which is roughly equivalent to 55 to 60 per cent of Harlequin 1’s annual office lighting requirement.

The turbine design is bespoke and was developed in collaboration with manufacturer, Northern Wind. The turbine’s power output is currently exceeding expectations, delivering significant energy at relatively low wind-speeds. Read more here.

Readers' comments (2)

  • It absolutely is token. Industrial scale turbines are mass produced not bespoke, so realise massive economies of scale. I'm told the turbine is 100kw. 133,100kwh would mean it performs at mean capacity factor of 15%. The mean for wind power in the UK is double that and some locations are substantially better. The energy it produces could have been produced much more economically by a large turbine in an appropriate location (there are onshore turbines with 50 times the output). The difference between siting of a wind turbine also has a huge impact on its output and hence economics. There are places in the UK with literally 10 times the average ambient wind power of London. I repeat. It absolutely is token.

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  • The fashion for urban wind turbines is clearly showing no sign of abating just yet. Perhaps the continuing political insistence for ineffective on-site renewable generation is to blame.

    If you ask a primary school class where we should build wind turbines, the answers usually range from “on top of hills” to “out at sea”, anywhere it is windy. By the time those children arrive at the final year of their architectural degrees the answer has often become “attached to my building as an icon”.

    Unfortunately the very nature of buildings is to disrupt the smooth flow of wind which is essential for efficient energy generation. The increased friction due to surface roughness in urban areas reduces the potential power in the wind dramatically. At the height of BSkyB’s turbine, it is only half that of rural areas. In city centres the power available may be just 15% of the open country equivalent.

    This location effect is generally accounted for by applying a capacity factor to the theoretical maximum generation of a turbine. The rule of thumb for UK wind power is to assume a capacity factor of 30%-35% for good onshore installations. The generation figures quoted for BSkyB indicate a capacity factor of just less than 15%. Thus the same turbine, at the same cost, could generate more than twice as much electricity if it was not shackled to a building. This increase in output would more than offset the grid distribution losses to deliver the electricity to West London.

    Apart from the very obvious branding potential, urban wind turbines have little going for them. It is time that politicians stopped interfering and let engineers and architects make the best technical choices for genuinely sustainable development.

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