Small and medium-sized wind turbines have great potential to serve increasing demands for distributed generation and can provide a cost-effective solution for many homes, farms, schools and other end-users. Distributed wind technology offers increased security of energy supply as well as community awareness of clean energy options.
However, several obstacles have hindered greater adoption, including:
- Non-standardized performance specifications, and optimistic and inconsistent claims from suppliers.
- Lack of consumer-friendly tools for consumers to compare turbines and accurately estimate energy performance.
- Need for greater assurance of safety, functionality, and durability by consumers and agencies providing financial incentives in order to justify investments.
- Field testing has been conducted for less than half of the small wind turbine models on the market.
Nameplate ratings of wind turbines, on which most incentive programs are based, have varied by as much as 40% between programs. The most effective approach to surmounting these hurdles is through a standardized certification process with easy-to-understand labels that allow consumers to make “apples-to-apples” comparisons of different wind turbines. While international certification programs are in place, a more affordable and appropriate option has been needed for the North American distributed wind turbine market.
With certification labels, consumers can compare products and funding agencies and utilities will gain greater confidence that wind turbines installed with public assistance have been tested for safety, function, performance and durability and meet requirements of consensus standards. Certification helps prevent unethical marketing and false claims, thereby ensuring consumer protection and industry credibility.
Completing timely review of the certification applications in SWCC’s queue and others expected in coming months will greatly aid the ability of suppliers, especially U.S. manufacturers, to sell their products and meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal of expanding the number of distributed wind turbines deployed in the U.S. market fivefold by 2015.
State energy programs, utilities, and numerous other stakeholders are asking for and urgently expecting a populated list of certified wind turbines. SWCC certification is proceeding in the most efficient and timely process possible.