Small wind posted growth in 2010; 2011 a differet story

The market for small wind systems grew 26 percent in 2010, highlighted by a 53 percent increase in sales revenue and 25.6 MW of new capacity. More than 30 states offered small wind incentives and grants, with New York and California leading state markets.

While 2010 was a successful year for small wind installations, 2011 has experienced a slow-down. Brett Pingree, vice president of sales and marketing for Northern Power Systems, blamed this on the sluggish economy and changes in the political landscape. Several states – including Wisconsin and Ohio – cut renewable incentive programs in 2011.

Pingree offered the assessment during a Sept. 15 conference to discuss results of the American Wind Energy Association’s 2010 Small Wind Turbine Market Report.

“State incentive programs directly affect our business and the jobs we create,” Pingree said.

One area that small wind turbine manufactures have not seen great success is with rural electric cooperatives.

“On a whole, rural co-ops have been anti-small wind,” said Mike Bergey, president of Bergey Windpower Co.

However, Northern Power has found success with a rural electric cooperative near the Bering Sea in Alaska, where the company has installed 38 turbines. “The diesel prices there are so exorbitant that the co-op had to do something,” Pingree said. Not only were the small wind projects successful at offsetting diesel reliance, but they also provided a low-maintenance alternative for the villagers. The direct drive turbines are not expected to require any maintenance beyond an annual inspection and lubrication in its first five years.

For rural electric cooperatives to become more likely to adopt small wind projects, wind energy advocates should expose the communities to wind turbines, Pingree said. “When people see these reliably performing machines, they are more likely to approach the co-op about integrating small wind.”

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