This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

June 09, 2010

AWEA: U.S. Market for Small Wind Turbines Gained Ground in 2009

The U.S. market for small wind turbines expanded by 15% in 2009 and accounted for about half of the units sold globally, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The trade group released its annual Small Wind Turbine Global Market Study on June 8, focusing on wind turbines with rated capacities of 100 kilowatts or less, which are primarily used to power individual homes, farms, and small businesses. The study found that 9,800 small wind turbines were sold in the United States in 2009, representing a total generating capacity of 20.3 megawatts. The economic downturn caused growth to slow in 2009, following a 78% surge in the U.S. market in 2008. According to AWEA, expanded federal tax credits provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped keep the small wind turbine market afloat in the United States, despite the economic recession. AWEA estimates that 100,000 small wind turbines are now operating throughout the country, providing about 100 megawatts of generating capacity.

Photo of a small, three-bladed wind turbine on a tall tower. The tip of each blade curves in a clockwise direction.

In 2005, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory tested the SkyStream 3.7 turbine against international standards. The Southwest Windpower product is easily identified by its distinctive curved blades.
Credit: Lee Fingersh, NREL

The United States is also the world's leading manufacturer of small wind turbines, according to AWEA. In 2009, about two-thirds of all small wind systems sold throughout the world were made by U.S. manufacturers. About 250 companies throughout the world manufacture or plan to manufacture small wind turbines, and 95 of them are located in the United States, though most of those are in the start-up phase. The world's 15 leading manufacturers continue to predict exponential sales growth in the U.S. market over the next five years, with projections for achieving more than 1,000 megawatts of installed small wind capacity by 2015. The manufacturers report that the fastest growth was in the Midwest last year, but the largest markets overall are in the Northeast, the upper Midwest, and California. States with strong consumer incentives, robust utility policies, and streamlined permitting processes had the strongest markets. U.S. manufacturers also exported about 36% of their turbines in 2009, up from 28% in 2008. See the AWEA press release and the full report (PDF 4.9 MB). Download Adobe Reader.

One factor that could help the small wind industry grow is the certification of wind turbines to an industry standard. In December 2009, AWEA adopted a Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard that spells out requirements for performance, quietness, strength, safety, and durability of small wind turbines. The standard also specifies the reporting and labeling requirements for certifying small wind turbines. In February, the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC), an independent certification body, began accepting certification applications. The SWCC Web site also lists independent test organizations, including DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and four NREL regional test centers. So far, the SWCC lists three manufacturers that intend to submit wind turbines: American Zephyr Corporation; Renewegy, LLC; and Xzeres Wind Corporation. The AWEA market report notes that certification requires an average of 6-12 months of field testing, so the earliest that small turbines might gain certification would be late this year. The AWEA report also notes that the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners plans to start certifying installers of small wind turbines this fall. See the AWEA standard (PDF 197 KB) and the SWCC Web site.

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