U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Wind Program

Small Wind Certification Important For Wind Industry

April 14, 2013

Audio with Brent Summerville, Small Wind Certification Council technical director (MP3 3.6 MB). Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:58.

Rural America pioneered the use of wind energy on the farm with windmills in the 1800s and wind turbines in the 1920s and 1930s. Recently on American farms and ranches there has been a revival of small-scale distributed wind energy.

Small Wind Certification Council Technical Director Brent Summerville says farmers are comfortable investing in equipment that will pay for itself and offset some electricity usage, especially at a time when energy prices are volatile.

"Wind energy would be right for a farmer or rancher if they have a suitable wind resource and the space to install a wind turbine. The project will be successful if they choose a dealer installer that can provide reliable support and if they choose a quality wind turbine. The dealer will help them assess their wind resource, match their energy needs with the wind turbine system, estimate the energy output, and help them with the economics of the project, including financing."

Summerville says Greensburg, Kansas is an inspiring example. The town was devastated by a tornado in 2007 but has rebuilt as a green city with the help of wind energy. He says there are many other successful stories of farmers who have installed wind turbines to save money on energy and help ensure the sustainability of their farms.

Summerville says good news travels fast with wind projects and their successes, but he says bad news travels even faster. As an example, Summerville says California's rebate program was shut down for eight months in 2011 due to an exaggerated power rating of a small wind turbine. That is why the Small Wind Certification Council certifies wind turbines have been designed and tested according to national standards. Summerville says small wind turbines are certified to the American Wind Energy Association's small wind performance and safety standard.

"Certification produces consumer labels and summary reports with easy to understand ratings for power, energy, and sound. Third party certification also verifies that the turbine has been tested for durability, safety, and function. SWCC certification helps prevent unethical marketing and false claims, ensuring consumer protection and industry credibility."

The SWCC works directly with wind turbine manufacturers through the entire process. Summerville says the turbine is installed at one of the Council's test sites for field testing—which can take nine to 12 months—and puts the turbine through a full range of wind speeds and conditions.

"The testing is performed according to the standard and reports are submitted for our review. The manufacturer also submits a report on the design calculations for the wind turbine, and we verify that this design work and engineering has been performed according to the standard. So in a nutshell, the standards are written by a group of wind energy experts to prescribe how to evaluate small wind technology, and we provide third-party verification that the turbine was designed and tested to these standards."

Small wind is a global business and Summerville says other countries have their own certification standards based on international standards. So if a turbine is certified in Japan, he says the SWCC will grant it conditional certification for one-year while the manufacturer submits the necessary reports to obtain certification to American standards.

"This process also goes in the other direction, so U.S. manufacturers can use SWCC certification for gaining access to global markets. The goal is for the turbine manufacturer to test once and certify everywhere."

So far, Summerville says the SWCC has certified nine small wind turbines—four fully certified, four conditionally certified, and one has obtained power of performance certification. Currently he says 10 turbines are moving through the process and others continue to sign up.

To find a certified wind turbine and view the reports, visit SmallWindCertification.org.