Small wind turbines are electric generators that utilize wind energy to produce clean, emissions-free power for individual homes, farms, and small businesses. With this simple and increasingly popular technology, individuals can generate their own power and cut their energy bills while helping to protect the environment. The U.S. leads the world in the production of small wind turbines, which are defined as having rated capacities of 100 kilowatts or less, and the market is expected to continue strong growth through the next decade.
Grid-Connected Small Wind Energy Systems
With this type of grid-connection, the wind turbine will operate only when the utility grid is available. During power outages, the wind turbine is required to shut down due to safety concerns.
Grid-connected systems can be practical if the following conditions exist:
Federal regulations, specifically, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, or PURPA, require utilities to connect with and purchase power from small wind energy systems. However, you should contact your utility before connecting to its distribution lines to address any power quality and safety concerns. Your utility can also provide you with a list of requirements for connecting your system to the grid.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) Connecting to the Grid program provides services and resources to facilitate the development of interconnection procedures and net metering rules for renewable-energy systems and other forms of distributed generation. IREC’s web site serves as an information clearinghouse on interconnection and net-metering issues. For an overview of interconnection standards for distributed generation in your state, reference the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.
Operating off the Grid
In remote locations, stand-alone systems can be more cost-effective than extending a power line to the electricity grid (the cost of which can range from $15,000 to $50,000 per mile). But these systems are also used by people who live near the grid and wish to obtain independence from the power provider or demonstrate a commitment to non-polluting energy sources.
Successful stand-alone systems generally take advantage of a combination of techniques and technologies to generate reliable power, reduce costs, and minimize inconvenience. Some of these strategies include using fossil fuel or renewable hybrid systems and reducing the amount of electricity required to meet your needs.
Your local system supplier or installer, a local renewable energy organization, or your state energy office should be able to help you navigate the requirements in your community.
Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE)
Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA)
Montana State University Extension
Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC)
U.S. Department of Energy
World Wind Energy Association
Small Wind World Report 2014 (PDF 2 MB). (March 2014).