Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Bipartisan Group of Senators Is Pushing for Distributed Wind — Here’s Why It Matters

Whole Foods in Brooklyn (Credit: urbangreenenergy.com) Click to Enlarge.
A group of Senators recently urged the US Department of Energy to continue funding programs for the domestic distributed wind energy industry.  The bipartisan group, led by Sen. Al Franken, wrote a letter highlighting the clear potential for distributed wind power to “contribute many gigawatts of electricity similar to other renewable technologies.”  Reactions have been mixed, and that’s understandable.  The distributed wind industry has faced a good deal of critique (some of which is warranted).  Nevertheless, the Senators are correct: Distributed wind is a useful technology, with useful applications, and stands to benefit from the increasingly attractive economic conditions for distributed generation.
2011 was when the wind started to come out of the industry’s sails (and yes, pun intended).  The economy had tanked, and solar prices were gaining economies of scale, making small wind expensive by comparison in a market where customers were holding their wallets more tightly.  But just like with solar, distributed wind has continued to evolve and innovate.  The technology and business models have continued to advance, the industry has consolidated, and as the senators noted in their letter, the distributed wind power industry is at the threshold of rapid commercialization.

Economic conditions are increasingly attractive for all distributed generation.  In just a few short years, distributed wind has changed dramatically.  There are fewer players, and the standards are much tougher as the SWCC, in the US, and comparable certification programs around the world, have reached maturation.  The technology has advanced — and has a wide variety of applications.  You’re not going to find distributed wind atop 20% of rooftops, like you will already with solar in Australia, but you will find that the modern technologies from the companies that remain in the industry — the strongest, best run ones with the best technology, and with better economies of scale — will start gaining a resurgence.

Distributed wind has particularly great potential in applications such as:
  • Farms: A 10kW or larger turbine can be installed in windy locations and produce energy at a rate less than that available from the grid, or in farms in remote regions with difficulty accessing the grid.
  • Northern and Southern regions, from Scandinavia to Patagonia: There are limitations to solar resources during the winter months at the poles, but wind is a great resource in most of these areas.
  • Hybrid installations: Particularly in off-grid situations, a mix of energy sources adds resiliency and lowers the cost of energy.
Read more at A Bipartisan Group of Senators Is Pushing for Distributed Wind — Here’s Why It Matters

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