Small, Community Wind Empowers Rural Communities, Strengthens U.S. Economy
September 9, 2013
Distributed wind and small wind are two terms that tend to confuse people. What's the difference between the two? eFormative Options Principal Consultant Heather Rhoads-Weaver says distributed wind is a homegrown energy strengthening the domestic economy that is an important aspect of the manufacturing renaissance in America for a clean energy future. Rhoads-Weaver explains small wind.
"Small wind is one type of distributed wind. And the way we define small wind is up to 100 kilowatts. So small wind turbines that are generally used at a farm or residence, or right on site, where you'd be consuming the power in a type of arrangement with your utility called net metering, where you would spin your meter backwards for all of the wind energy that you're producing, and then when the wind is not available, then you'd be using utility power."
Rhoads-Weaver says it's important to note that in 2012, 91% of small wind turbines installed in the U.S. were made in the U.S., with most jobs generated in rural America. She says wind is a proven, broad-based solution for empowering self-generation on farms and in other facilities that benefits everyone.
As for community wind, it is related to distributed wind, but Rhoads-Weaver says not all community wind projects are distributed. She says generally there is a local ownership component with community wind, which benefits the local economy by keeping more of the dollars local and generating more local jobs and benefits.
"They're often installed at schools and other nonprofit facilities that would drive benefits back into the local community. In my state of Washington, we have a community wind project that is owned by a community action agency, that all of the proceeds go to help their meals on wheels program, their weatherization, their low-income heating assistance programs, and it is out in a rural area that doesn't have a lot of other revenue opportunities. So, they're really turning their wind power into a revenue source for the agency."
For anyone interested in installing a wind turbine for their home, Rhoads-Weaver recommends going to the Small Wind Certification Council website at www.smallwindcertification.org.
"You can look at the ratings of various wind turbines that have gone through third-party testing and evaluations. You can make sure that the turbine you're interested in buying compares favorably to the other turbines of that size. And also, it shows not just production, but also sound levels, and it's been tested for safety, duration. So, I would definitely recommend that people buy a turbine off the certified list."
Rhoads-Weaver says other good resources are openei.org—which includes a consumer guide, wind resource map, and other tips—and windpolicytool.org, which shows what incentives might be available in certain areas and how to improve project economics.