Small Wind Picks Up Even as Economy Turns Down
The number of Americans generating their own electricity with small-scale wind turbines (those with rated capacities of 100 kilowatts and under) increased by 10,000 last year despite an economic downturn that targeted the heart of the small-wind market: homeowners and small-business owners. Last year the U.S. small wind market grew 15 percent with 20 Megawatts (MW) of new installed capacity, pushing the industry past the milestone of 100 MW in total capacity. Remarkably, half of these sales came within the last three years for an industry that has been around for more than 80. More remarkable still, for much of these three years the world’s economy crippled the finances of the much of the industry’s primary consumers. How did this growth happen?
The reason seems to be a cocktail of new and improved federal and state policies, optimistic equity investors, and determined consumers.
The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the economic stimulus bill) expanded the federal investment tax credit for small wind turbines, allowing consumers to take fully 30 percent of the total cost of a small wind system as a tax credit. These few short lines of text breathed new life into a U.S.-born industry, and just in time.
A growing number of states also offer incentives to help consumers overcome the yet-steep cost hurdle of owning a turbine, which for a homeowner can range $10,000 to $60,000. Governments at all levels are recognizing small wind’s economic potential and are paying closer attention.
But government is not the only investor. Over the past five years an infusion of private equity investment of $170 million into 18 manufacturers worldwide (most of them U.S.-based) provided companies with the capital to ramp up production to meet a strong demand. In particular, an additional $80 million was pumped into manufacturers during the peak economic gloom of 2009.
According to a 2010 survey by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), these manufacturers were able to parlay this investment into sales, and even many companies without equity funding were able to sell more turbines than in 2008.
Of course, the ultimate investor is the consumer, who has been relentless in seeking ways to cut electricity bills, become “personally energy-independent,” and fight global warming in a tangible way. To 30,000 of these pioneers over the past three years, the answer has been to own a small wind turbine. Consumers have evolved from green-hearted environmentalists and farmers to Home Depots and suburbanites. One consumer trait, however, has remained constant over the past 80 years: Americans buy from American companies, which dominate the global market.
Just 10 years ago no more than 50 companies in the world manufactured small wind systems. Today, 26 countries are home to more than 250 manufacturers, of which 90 are based in the U.S., and foreign companies are looking to position their operations on economically fertile American soil. In fact, 95 percent of all small wind turbines sold in the U.S. last year were made by U.S. manufacturers. The vast majority of these 90 U.S. companies are in start-up phase, but the leaders command roughly half the world’s market share.
Can this growth be sustained? Can small wind keep up with price-plummeting solar photovoltaic technology? The annual 2010 AWEA Small Wind Turbine Global Market Study aims to address these and other questions about the market. It will be available soon at www.awea.org/smallwind.
Ron Stimmel is Manager for Legislative Affairs and Small Systems for the American Wind Energy Association
Awesense launches digital clean energy marketplace
Awesense has launched what it claims is the only energy-focused repository of solutions built to drive the industry's decarbonization agenda.
The Awesense Marketplace aims to provide a common framework for companies to collaborate towards the future of clean energy and digital transformation, uniting applications, solutions and algorithms to solve energy and grid challenges.
Solutions listed on the marketplace cover a range of cases, and launch companies include Doosan GridTech, Kitu Systems, vadiMAP, LO3 Energy, ENGIN, Utilidata, Clir Renewables, ChargeLab, SensorLink, Exeri, Easy SmartGrid, and Athena Power.
“We are welcoming a new era in the decarbonization of energy systems,” said Mischa Steiner, CEO of Awesense. “The goal of achieving a clean energy future requires collaboration amongst key industry players in the utilities and energy sectors. Sharing resources through the Marketplace means that our customers and partners have a truly seamless approach as we work towards our common goal - ultimately, decarbonizing the world’s energy system.”
Utilities, consulting companies, and other organizations struggle to develop solutions that can be scaled across many jurisdictions due to complex data integration and the lack of a standard, open data model. Using the solutions offered throughout the Marketplace, organizations can rapidly accelerate their transition to a decentralized, decarbonized future and develop solutions that are scalable across industry. The platform will open up new revenue streams in areas such as:
Distributed energy resource integration and control
Electric vehicle charging
Demand response and smart-home management
Intelligent asset management
Advanced distribution system management
The new marketplace builds on Awesense's Digital Energy Platform, a digital twin based energy analytics platform that allows utilities to scale at the same pace as the rapidly changing technology landscape of the energy grid.
Together, the Open Energy Data Model and the Awesense Marketplace removes hurdles around data mapping and transformation, expedites data preparation and refining, and provides a common framework for companies to collaborate.
“The energy-specific data model allows utilities, technology companies, consulting firms, and other vendors to build solutions that can be easily integrated by other energy companies, to make a real impact on the industry as a whole, and develop new revenue streams for their organizations” said Steiner. “We’re looking forward to seeing the Awesense Marketplace grow as more partners committed to energy decarbonization join us.”
There are no simple solutions to putting the world on a sustainable path to net-zero emissions, according to the IEA. Reducing global CO2 emissions will require "a broad range of different technologies working across all sectors of the economy in various combinations and applications." it notes.
Renewable Energy Hub of South Australia formed
Amp Power Australia has established the Renewable Energy Hub of South Australia, a strategic portfolio of large scale integrated Solar PV, Wind and Battery Energy Storage assets located in South Australia. The hub also includes the siting of the Spencer Gulf Hydrogen Energy Ecoplex, forming part of the South Australian Government's Hydrogen Action Plan.
The portfolio, acquired from EPS, includes three large Solar PV projects totalling over 1.3 GW of generation, located at Robertstown (636 MW), Bungama (336MW) and Yoorndoo Ilga (388MW) with a total BESS capacity of up to 540MW across the portfolio.
Amp's expansion in Australia will include the implementation of Amp X, a proprietary digital energy platform 100% owned by Amp, which provides a diverse portfolio of disruptive and interoperable grid edge solutions, and includes a smart transformer, which enables real-time autonomous management and optimised dispatch of all forms of distributed generation and loads across the grid.
Palmetto recently opened its marketplace in Arizona, and is now serving 20 states across the country, claiming its proprietary technology, marketplace business model, and consumer mobile application "are all designed to democratize access to clean energy".