Small & Community Wind

What is small wind?

Small wind turbines are electric generators that use the energy of the wind 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. Unlike utility-scale turbines, small turbines can be suitable for use on properties as small as one acre of land in most areas of the country.

Small wind is defined as wind turbines with a capacity rating of less than or equal to 100 kW. Turbines in this category range in size from smaller than 1 kW for off-grid applications to 100-kW turbines that can provide village power. Fifty-four small turbine models are offered commercially in the United States for applications including homes, schools, commercial and industrial facilities, telecommunications, farms and ranches, and communities. By the end of 2012, more than 150,000 small wind turbines were installed in the United States.

What is a community wind project?

Local stakeholders want to play an even bigger role in the use and development of wind energy. Individual landowners have a personal stake in the success of wind development and are looking for ways to maximize the value of wind for their communities. Local communities, including agricultural and rural economic development interests, want the opportunity to invest in wind in their backyards. A fundamental attribute of a community wind project is that the community has a tangible interest in the project.

Community wind projects include the following:

  • Any wind project of 20 megawatts or smaller in nameplate capacity is a community wind project if it:
    • Meets this condition: Projects larger than 20 MW cannot be separated into smaller projects to meet this 20-MW project size limit. Specifically, more than one qualifying community wind project cannot be built within 5 miles of another qualifying project within a 12-month period and using the same interconnect.
    • Meets one or more of the following conditions:
      • A local governing body (e.g., town, county) passes a resolution supporting the project; and/or
      • Members of the community are offered the opportunity to participate in an ownership interest in the project and are involved in the decision-making process during the project's development; and/or
      • The project’s local benefit is demonstrated in terms of: retail power costs, benefits to the local grid (or the project is incorporated into a micro-grid), or resolving remote power issues.
  • A project between 20 MW and 100 MW in nameplate capacity is a community wind project if local owners own at least 33.3 percent of the project.
    • Local owner includes any:
      • Individual who resides in the same state as the project or within 250 miles of the project (and within the U.S.)
      • State department or agency, tribal council, school, town and other political subdivision located in the same state as the project
      • Municipal, cooperative and similar publicly owned utility
      • Corporation or other similar business entity of which at least 51 percent is owned by one or more individuals who reside in the same state as the project or within 250 miles of the project (and within the U.S.)
      • Not-for-profit corporations and similar nonprofit entities.
    • 33.3 percent ownership is measured at the “commercial operation date,” a recognized term in the wind industry typically meaning the date at which the project is capable of and actually produces electricity. Local owners must own the project for some period of time thereafter.


AWEA's partner organization, DWEA (Distributed Wind Energy Association), is the leading expert on small and community wind power. Please visit their website at to support and learn more about these types of wind energy applications.