Choosing Windpower by Hugh Piggott

By Paul Gipe

December 1, 2006

A review by Paul Gipe

Hugh Piggott is one of the English-speaking world’s true experts on small wind turbines, especially for off-the-grid applications. (There may be other authorities on small wind turbines out there working in other languages, but I don’t know who they are.) When I have a question, I turn to Hugh.

Choosing Windpower is CAT’s update of Hugh’s well received “It’s a Breeze”. While CAT’s promotional copy claiming that this slim publication is “the definitive guide” for using wind power off-the-grid is a bit over the top, it is a useful volume for the do-it-yourselfers that CAT has catered to for more than two decades.

Hugh brings his no-nonsense style to bear on the subject and covers all the necessary bases in as few words as possible. I suspect that the book is a handy accompaniment to Hugh’s workshops on building your own working wind turbine, though I haven’t been to one of his programs in several years.

What I find most helpful is Hugh’s inclusion of photos of several wind turbines in his book that we don’t often see over here on this side of the pond: Proven, Bornay, Ampair, and Marlec. He has also included some telling photos of both good and bad siting, including one Marlec sheltered along a row of trees. (The turbine should last a very long time since it won’t be turning that much!)

Ever a gentleman, Hugh politely advises in Choosing Windpower that rooftop mounting “is not usually a good idea” and proceeds to show a photo of two much ballyhooed Swift turbines mounted on a commercial building. He does admonish that the enthusiasm for rooftop mounting that has swept Britain “is a worrying trend” and suggests that wind turbines in such installations will simply become “expensive toys”.

Choosing Windpower is a gem of a little book on small wind turbines.

Choosing Windpower by Hugh Piggott, paper, 111 mm x 175 mm, 116 pages, diagrams, charts, tables and photographs, ring-bound, ISBN 1-90217-531-X, £7.99, 2006, Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 9AZ, Wales. +44 01654 705950;;

Table of Contents


The wind

Types of wind system

How to use this book


Lifestyle implications


The case studies

Section 1: Small wind turbine electrics

Electrical basics



Battery system management

Wind turbine ‘controllers’

Photovoltaic (PV) solar electric panels


The case studies

Section 2: Assessing your needs

How this applies to the case studies

Section 3: Siting small wind turbines

Site windspeed assessment

Tower position and height

Other considerations

How this applies to the case studies

Section 4: Understanding wind turbine specifications

Appendix 1: Glossary

Appendix 2: Market survey

Appendix 3: Useful equations

Appendix 4: Web links