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

Small Wind Turbine Research

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and U.S. Department of Energy (NREL/DOE) Small Wind Project's objectives are to reduce barriers to wind energy expansion, stabilize the market, and expand the number of small wind turbine systems installed in the United States. "Small wind turbine" refers to a turbine smaller than or equal to 100 kilowatts (kW). "Distributed wind" includes small and midsize turbines (100 kW through 1 megawatt [MW]).

Since 1996, NREL's small wind turbine research has provided turbine testing, turbine development, and prototype refinement leading to more commercially available small wind turbines. Work is conducted under the following areas. You can also learn more about state and federal policies and incentives and independent certification from NREL's small wind webinars.

Independent Testing

The Independent Testing project tests commercially available small wind turbine systems to national and international standards to help industry provide consumers and stakeholders with more certified small wind turbine systems. Tested and certified small wind turbines give consumers greater confidence that the systems they install will perform within specified wind regimes as advertised by the manufacturer.

Regional Test Centers

NREL's assistance to create regional test centers expanded the number of small wind turbines that can undergo independent testing. As part of the development of regional test center (RTC) staff and facilities, National Wind Technology Center's (NWTC) test engineers provided direct support to the RTC teams, answering queries on testing approaches, methodologies, and instrumentation, and ensuring consistent reporting and analysis. Consumers, manufacturers, and state and utility incentive programs require that more small wind turbines are tested and certified, and the RTC satellite testing facilities can absorb the multiple test requests.

Turbine Development

Turbine development taps NWTC research expertise that provides inputs to distributed wind turbine designers. Historically, DOE has encouraged market expansion of small wind turbines by funding manufacturers through competitive solicitations to design new turbines or refine existing prototype systems leading to commercialization.

Field Verification Project

The Field Verification Project provided small wind turbine manufacturers with opportunities to operate and monitor their turbines under a range of distributed power applications and environments throughout the United States. This experience helped U.S. firms validate and improve the performance and reliability of their wind turbine technology while expanding regional experience with wind energy technologies.

Regional Field Verification

The Regional Field Verification project focused on regionally specific issues and opportunities and tested turbines to gain operational knowledge that could be applied nationwide.