Community Wind Handbook/Research Turbine Models

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Community Wind Handbook

Research Turbine Models

Now that you know how much energy you use and you understand your wind resource, it is time to begin researching turbine sizes and models. Deciding on a capacity while fulfilling the characteristics you are looking for will narrow the number of turbines to research. Characteristics include whether the turbine is certified, horizontal- versus vertical-axis machines, warranties, as well as how much energy you plan to produce.

A vertical access wind turbine installed at the Boston Museum of Science. Photo from Boston Museum of Science

Many resources are available to help consumers select small wind turbines that are safe and reliable investments when properly installed. First, the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) provides independent, accredited certification of small wind turbines and consumer information. The organization, formed by industry members, has certified several small and medium wind turbine models and plans to certify more in the near future.[1]

An additional resource that can be used in the turbine decision process is the Interstate Turbine Advisory Council (ITAC), which provides consumers with a Unified List of small and mid-sized wind turbines that meet the performance, reliability, acoustic, and warranty service expectations of incentive providers. (Note that ITAC does not endorse any of the wind turbines on the Unified List.) These turbines have been fully certified to the American Wind Energy Association’s Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard, version 9.1 (2009) or have met Microgeneration Certification Scheme requirements for small turbines.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL's) National Wind Technology Center conducts small wind turbine testing and development. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy and NREL selected four partners (Intertek Testing Services NA, Inc. in New York, Kansas State University, Windward Engineering, LLC in Utah and the West Texas A&M — Alternative Energy Institute) in 2009 to establish small wind Regional Test Centers to conduct tests on small wind turbines to meet national and international standards. Though the project ended in early 2016, reports from these Regional Test Centers are available to consumers.[2]

The implementation of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Small Wind Installer Certification was an additional step to ensure installers were qualified, but as of July 2012, the NABCEP certification was suspended. Sixteen installers throughout the United States hold the credential. At the NABCEP website, you can find more information or a certified installer.

While certified installers are an option for those interested in a turbine, some people choose to install a project themselves to reduce project costs. Interest in small wind site assessment courses, training, and certifications is increasing. The Midwest Renewable Energy Association offers a Renewable Energy Site Assessment Certificate Program, and NREL has published a Small Wind Site Assessment Guidelines report. Programs and materials like this can result in qualified assessors who can work on project installations, ensuring that turbines operate at their full potential.

A Bergey 10 kW Turbine being installed on a 120' SSL Tower for a winery in Lockport, NY. Credit: Niagara Wind & Solar, Inc.

When comparing turbines, it is important to obtain and review the product literature from several manufacturers and to research the companies to ensure they are recognized wind energy businesses and that parts and service will be available when you need them. Research could include contacting the Better Business Bureau and asking manufacturers for references from past customers with installations similar to the one you are considering. Learning about a system owner’s experiences concerning performance, reliability, maintenance and repair requirements, and whether the system meets expectations is integral in thoroughly researching a wind turbine for a small community wind project.[3]

Also integral to the research process is understanding warranties and the availability of local operations and maintenance (O&M) providers for each of the wind turbine models that you are considering. Warranties can range from a standard 2-year parts-and-labor package, which can include a power curve and availability warranty, to an extended warranty of up to 5 years at an additional cost. Warranties typically deal with design and manufacturing errors and supply replacement parts and labor.

An additional factor to consider is the proximity of O&M providers. Travel could increase the overall maintenance costs for the project, and unscheduled maintenance could become more of an issue if O&M providers are located far away from the project. It is important to note that although you may utilize third-party O&M companies to service turbines, it may void the original warranty if they are not approved by the manufacturer.[4]


  1.  "Small Wind Certification Council. Certified Small Turbines"
  2.  "National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Wind Research - Regional Test Centers"
  3.  "U.S. Department of Energy. Small Wind Guidebook: What Do Wind Systems Cost?"
  4.  "Windustry. Turbine Selection and Purchase"