The small wind energy sector ( 5kw-100 kw capacity) and the renewable energy industry in general, is set to experience unprecedented growth both in the U.S. and globally from now until 2020. This is supported by independent projections (2009) by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Pike Research and Clean Edge Research. It is fundamental to collectively assess the complementary utilization of components of distributed energy including wind, photovoltaic (PV) and biomass (primarily fuel cells). These combined for $63B in revenues (2008) projected to grow to $114B by 2020. Wind energy (2008) capacity growth primarily took place in three regions: U.S. 8.4GW, China 6.3GW and India 1.8 GW. Other smaller markets will begin to show significant growth due to the critical need for need distributed energy and growth in global electricity demand; 70% between 2010-2030. The aging and failing electrical infrastructure in the U.S. and the fact that conventional baseload power plants operate at a dismal 30%-35% efficiency rate mandate renewable alternatives. Over 50 nations have instituted Renewable Energy Standards. High growth countries like China and India are projected to see small wind capacity grow by 30X by 2015. Total global wind energy capacity is projected to grow from 158GW in 2009 to 581 GW in 2020. The small wind component is expected is expected to be 5%-10% of that growth, 21GW-42GW. This would require an estimated new installed 420,000 small wind turbines of 5kW to 100 kW capacity.In the U.S. small wind is still in an early stage of development but projected to grow from $77M in 2008 to $1B by 2015, an annual rate of nearly 60%.
The small wind energy sector will need to respond to a broad range of challenges in order to realize this business opportunity.
- Technology advances and innovation need to be integrated into small wind to effectively reduce CapEx cost per kw capacity and O&M costs in order to increase output and improve operating efficiencies. This will result in a more acceptable ROI for investors. As indicated in the title page, key to small wind energy development is the necessity to have a more effective and cost competitive generator. The Radial Flux Design Generator combined with direct drive design provides that. However, that is not enough. Improved technology relative to turbine design, blades, invertors, control systems and towers must also advance and be integrated. Innovation, such as stacking of multiple generators on a rotor and design of larger capacity VAWT are examples of potential system advances.
- Small wind can be combined with and be complementary with the other key components of distributed energy, PV and biomass-fuel cells (discussed in more detail in a later section). Combining these technologies increases capacity, improves reliability and provides for a more sustainable business model.
- New markets relative to the utilization and application of renewable energy must be developed (discussed in more detail in a later section). This will require collaboration with technology developers, service/vendor providers, business development specialists, the financial sector, utilities and energy consumers.
- Incentives and supporting policy including the Investment Tax Credit, the Production Tax Credit, Feed-in-Tariffs, net metering , RES and Community-Based Energy Development must continue and be expanded.
- The development of a sustainable renewable energy sector must support economic development. This includes sustainable business models, the creation of high tech jobs, energy security, meeting energy demand growth, maintaining competitive electricity rates and ensuring that economic impacts become community based.