Small wind turbines have great potential to serve increasing demand for energy generation while being a cost-effective solution for commercial and residential end-users. However, several obstacles have hindered greater use of small wind turbines. Performance specifications are not standardized, and manufacturer reports are optimistic and inconsistent. Consumers do not have user-friendly tools to compare turbines or accurately estimate energy performance. Consumers and agencies providing financial incentives need greater assurance of safety, functionality and durability to justify investments. These needs soon will be better met when the Small Wind Certification Council begins a certification program for small wind turbines.

Credit: Aerovironment Inc.

Under the forthcoming program, manufacturers will test their turbines to the “Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard” under development by the American Wind Energy Association, Washington, D.C. SWCC will evaluate the test reports and, as an independent certification body, certify that small wind turbines meet or exceed the performance and durability requirements of the standard. The standard and SWCC certification will cover horizontal and vertical turbines with a rotor-swept area of less than 2,153 square feet (200 m2), which is approximately 65 kilowatts or less.

Certified turbines will receive easy-to-understand labels with the following:

• Rated Annual Energy Output [assuming one-year average wind speed of 11 1/5 mph (5 meters per second)]

• Rated Power [at 24.6 mph (11 m/s)]

• Rated Sound Level [defined as the level not exceeded 95 percent of the time with AWS of 11 1/5 mph (5 m/s)]

Certification also will confirm turbines meet durability and safety requirements established by the standard. SWCC’s Web directory will include detailed power curves, annual energy-performance curves and measured sound-pressure levels for each model certified. Consumers can use this information to compare turbines in different wind regions.

SWCC currently is developing the certification policies and processes. The organization expects to begin accepting certification applications in mid-2009, depending on funding and the successful adoption of AWEA’s “Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard.”

Larry Sherwood is executive director of the Small Wind Certification Council. He can be reached at larry@sherwoodassociates.com.