You Didn’t Know About Distributed Wind Energy

Learn more about distributed wind! Here are some interesting facts and key points about the U.S. Distributed Wind Market. This article is a part of Energy.gov’s series on “Top things you didn’t know about energy¬†.”

The power generated by distributed wind can be used near or at the source, unlike wind power, which is produced in bulk and sent to consumers through transmission lines and substations. Households, schools, and farms use distributed wind, as well as distributed energy providers.

Since more than 2,000 BC, people have used wind power to grind grain and pump water. Wind-powered water pumping made it possible to live in arid areas of Australia and the United States during the 19th century by bringing deep aquifer water up to the surface. In the U.S., between 1850 and 1970, over six million small turbines were installed, mostly for water pumping. Learn more about the wind energy history.

Wind turbines are used for distributed applications in all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. US-distributed US wind turbines have a cumulative installed power of 1,104 Megawatts between 2003 and 2022.

Distributed wind consumers come in many forms, such as residential, industrial, and commercial users, government, institutional, and utility customers. The turbines deployed are tailored to the needs of each customer. In 2022, agricultural and residential customers will account for 59% of distributed wind projects. However, they will only represent 1% of installed capacity because they tend to use smaller turbines. Utility companies, who tend to use bigger turbines, are responsible for 10% of all projects but 78% of installed capacity in 2022.

Distributed wind projects can use megawatt-sized turbines to power industrial facilities, such as California’s Anheuser Busch plant, which uses a wind turbine of 80 meters named Bud Light and another wind turbine of 91 meters named Budweiser, to power its brewery. Together, these wind turbines provide 4.1 MW in capacity.

Construction of “Bud Light,” Anheuser-Busch’s multi-megawatt 80-meter wind generator located in California

Faster wind speeds generate more electricity. All across the United States, wind speeds can be found at 30 meters above ground level. This is the average height of distributed wind installations. See how strong the wind is in your area by using this residential-scale wind resource map.

This map displays the predicted annual mean wind speeds at 30 m height. It is presented with a spatial resolution of 2 km, which has been interpolated at a finer scale.

Map of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory from WINDExchange

Installing distributed wind is often done to reduce utility bills or hedge against rising electricity prices. Many utilities also compensate the owner of distributed wind or other generation for the excess energy that is returned to the grid. This practice is called “net metering”.

Utility-scale Distributed Wind. A Vestas 1.65 MW wind turbine at Heartland Community College, Normal, Illinois.

Harvest the Wind Network Photo

Third parties provide certification for small and medium-sized wind turbines as the distributed wind market matures. This ensures that turbines perform according to their advertised performance. The Bergey Excel 15, a 15-kW wind turbine, was certified in 2021. In 2023, the Skystream 3.7 wind turbine was recertified. This brings the number of U.S. small wind turbines approved in June 2023 up to nine. The U.S. Department of Energy urges consumers interested in buying small wind turbines to purchase those that are certified according to the AWEA9.1-2009 standard or ANSI/ACP101-1 standard. Wind technologies need to be installed at specific wind resources in order to work as intended.

Distributed wind strengthens the economy in its home country. Small wind turbines are made up of mechanical, electrical, and tower components. U.S. manufacturers will sell 1,745 small wind turbines in 2022. This represents a $14.6-million investment. U.S. small wind turbine manufacturers prefer U.S. suppliers, which include hundreds of manufacturing facilities, retailers, contractors, and maintenance workers.

The growth of U.S. Exports is attributed to distributed wind. Over 72 M.W. in small U.S. wind turbines has been exported since 2012 to 26 countries, representing a total value of $420 million.

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