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Small Wind Certification Council Works to Ensure Wind Industry's Credibility

May 1, 2013

Audio with Brent Summerville, Small Wind Certification Council technical director (MP3 2.7 MB). Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:57.

Farms and wind energy have a rich history together, according to Small Wind Certification Council Technical Director Brent Summerville. He says farmers are comfortable investing in equipment that will pay for itself and they understand how to keep the technology running for many years. Since farms and ranches generally use a lot of energy, Summerville says farmers and ranchers should care about small-scale distributed wind energy because it offers a way to generate on-site power to offset some of that electricity usage.

"Energy prices are volatile and a small wind turbine on the farm is a hedge against rising energy costs. Since the fuel that drives the wind turbine is free, investing in a wind turbine locks in the energy cost for the life of the turbine. Wind energy will be right for a farmer or rancher if they have a suitable wind resource and the space to install a wind turbine. The project will be successful if they choose a dealer-installer that can provide reliable support and if they choose a quality wind turbine. There are many successful case studies of farmers who have installed 10-, 20-, 50-, and 100-kilowatt wind turbines to save money on energy and help ensure the sustainability of the farm."

The Small Wind Certification Council has received startup funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, several state agencies, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The Council's mission is to help prevent unethical marketing and false claims, according to Summerville, ensuring consumer protection and wind industry credibility.

"SWCC helps the farmer choose a quality wind turbine by providing a list of turbines that we have certified to meet national standards. We also publish easy-to-understand consumer labels with ratings for power, energy, and sound, which enables comparison shopping."

Wind certification is required for state incentives, which Summerville says is the driving force in the United States. In fact, he says state agencies were some of the biggest supporters of the certification program in place now. In the past, each state had its own method of determining eligibility for its small wind incentive program, but Summerville says many state agencies have worked together to form a list of eligible wind turbines through the development of the Interstate Turbine Advisory Council.

"Certification provides them greater confidence that small wind turbines installed with public assistance have been tested for safety, function, performance, and durability, and meet the requirements of standards. Federally, certification is not currently a requirement for the tax credit. The Distributed Wind Energy Association is working directly with U.S. Treasury on the requirements for the tax credit. Now that the list of certified turbines is growing, we are close to having this requirement in the tax code."

Summerville says small wind turbines have a great potential to serve increasing demands and provide a cost effective solution for many rural homes, farms, schools, and other end-users.

—Julie Jones