I recently discussed the fact that renewable energy projects are becoming increasingly large and centralized, a trend that has led some to fear that the “residential revolution” of small-scale wind and solar in every home would never come to pass. But now, thanks to “reductions in their size and cost, along with improvements in efficiency,” sales of small wind turbines “have been growing steadily since 1990.” 7,000 small turbines (classified as producing no more than 100 kilowatts) were sold last year, a number that is expected to reach 10,000 this year. These turbines are typically rated at between 2 and 10 kilowatts, are from 33 to 100 feet in hight, and range in cost from $12,000 to $55,000. (For comparison, large wind turbines are rated at up to 3 megawatts, or 3,000 kilowatts, and stand up to 300 feet tall).
Several Factors Behind the Trend
Several factors are driving the increase in sales. Concern about climate change and energy costs are certainly important, especially considering that “a 10-kilowatt turbine in an area with an average wind speed of 12 miles per hour can lead to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to removing 1.3 cars from the road.” But perhaps the most compelling reason to “go wind” has to do with the economics. 23 states in the U.S. offer net metering, which means that if your wind turbine generates more power than you use, then your meter will actually spin backward as you sell that power back into the grid. Additionally, Congress is considering a measure that “would offer a 30 percent federal tax credit on turbine purchases” capped at $4,000. That same federal tax credit is already being offered to residential solar installations. Lastly, various state incentives can further sweeten the deal.