Skip navigation to main content.
NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
About NRELEnergy AnalysisScience and TechnologyTechnology TransferTechnology DeploymentEnergy Systems Integration

How to Bring Distributed Wind to the Home, Farm, or Business

April 26, 2011

Audio with Trudy Forsyth, Senior Project Leader, National Wind Technology Center (MP3 3.2 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:26

The interest in distributed wind generation—the use of small wind turbines to produce clean energy for individual homes, farms, and small businesses—is growing at a rapid pace. With this technology, people are able to generate their own power, cut their energy bills, and help protect the environment.

With more and more people considering the option of wind generation at their home, farm, or business, National Wind Technology Center Senior Project Leader Trudy Forsyth says the need for information is growing and the industry is responding. She says consumers in the market for a small wind turbine will soon be able to select a reliable unit by checking the Small Wind Certification Council for certified products.

"With that now there's been some guidelines in: At what wind speed do you evaluate rated power? At what wind speed do you evaluate acoustics? At what wind speed do you evaluate energy production? And really, energy production is the most important thing to understand. And the agreement worldwide now is that that assessment will be made basically at five meters per second. Further there's an international labeling scheme that's just been developed and is soon to be decided on. So consumers really need to look at that information. Really educate themselves."

Forsyth says the opportunities to get educated on small wind are growing. She suggests windpoweringamerica.gov, awea.org, distributedwind.org, homepower.com, and nrel.gov.

Speaking of information, Forsyth says it's possible consumers have heard something about placing wind turbines on roofs. But she cautions that roof systems see lower wind speed and higher turbulence intensity, making it difficult to get much productivity out of them.

"In general, wind turbines are not really designed for a roof environment or a built environment or urban setting in that if you have anything blocking the wind in the dominant direction, you're going to be inducing turbulence on that machine. That's really the most difficult wind condition for all turbines of all sizes. So in general, you want to put that machine out away from any obstacles in the prevailing wind direction."

Once the perfect location is found, Forsyth says it's time to think about installation. She believes that the smaller the system, the more likely it can be installed by the purchaser—particularly in rural America.

"Rural people are used to maintaining all sorts of equipment and machinery, so this is just another piece of machinery to them. So I really think you can learn to do this yourself and maintain it yourself. If however you decide you want to hire somebody to do that, then you need to look for somebody who's been in the small wind installation role for some time. But another point that's as important is working with an installer who's local. Somebody who can help maintain your system, because these systems will need to be maintained on a regular basis."

Forsyth says eight small wind installers in the U.S. have North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners credentials. The website is nabcep.org.