Small wind industry standards

Since its inception in 1974, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has worked to develop wind industry standards in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and other organizations that have a stake in the development of wind energy technology. Standards development activities conducted by AWEA's Standards Development Board include the development, review, adoption and publication of standards documents by wind technology experts from industry, utilities and the research community, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's National Wind Technology Center.

AWEA has been designated as a standards-making organization by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is recognized as the lead wind energy standards organization in the United States. AWEA also is involved with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards development activities, with an AWEA representative serving as the U.S. technical coordinator for TC-88 and the support of other U.S. industry members who serve as delegates to the Working Groups.

Small Wind Turbine Certification

In 2009, industry stakeholders finalized the Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard (AWEA 9.1-2009), which can be used to verify the performance, safety and durability of small wind turbines with swept areas of 200 square meters or less (approximately 65 kilowatts of power capacity and under). The Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC), created in 2009, is an independent certification body that can certify small wind turbines that meet or exceed this standard. This certification provides a common North American standard for reporting turbine energy and sound performance, which should help small wind technology gain mainstream acceptance.

The small wind industry accomplished a major milestone in 2011: the first full certifications of two turbine models that passed testing to the AWEA Standard 9.1-2009; in addition, three models that were tested and analyzed in the U.K. received conditional temporary certification. Certification is helping to prevent unethical marketing claims, ensuring consumer protection and building credibility. The SWCC maintains a list of certified small wind turbines.

The SWCC is also playing a key role in addressing a well-recognized market barrier in updating small wind turbine standards and achieving international harmonization of testing and certification. Active ongoing participation in technical committees enables this coordination of standards. SWCC is working with other certification programs in Europe, Asia and North America to minimize the differences among country-specific requirements.

Intertek, a National Recognized Test Laboratory, operates a test facility dedicated to testing small wind turbines and also certifies small wind turbines to the AWEA 9.1 standard.

Unified Turbine List

The Clean Energy States Alliance convened meetings during 2011 to launch the Interstate Turbine Advisory Council (ITAC) to identify, discuss, review and collect information on small wind turbines with the goal of creating a unified list of small wind turbines eligible for state incentive program funding.

In addition to requiring certification to the AWEA Standard 9.1-2009, ITAC reviewed manufacturers’ consumer and dealer services, marketing consistency with third-party testing, turbine operational history, turbine warranty, and manufacturers’ response to technical problems, failures and customer complaints. As a collaborative and common inventory of turbines, the unified list announced in May 2012 will assure customers that taxpayer or ratepayer funding supports the installation of reliable and safe technology. The ITAC process will also improve program consistency, transparency and benefits.

Small Wind Installers Certification

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners initiated a small wind installers certification in late 2010, but the program has now been suspended. Future attempts to build a broad cadre of certified small wind installers may depend on greater consumer education, refining testing eligibility, policy interventions and industry support, such as reduced group insurance premiums.

Small Wind Turbine Testing

To increase the availability of small wind turbine testing and share field expertise, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory initiated the Regional Test Center project in 2009. Four test centers were selected in 2010 via a competitive solicitation. DOE and NREL are subsidizing the certification testing of two small wind turbines at each RTC. The project goal is for the test centers to be self-sustaining, independent entities that are capable of providing certification testing services to the small wind turbine industry.