This is an excerpt from the Fourth Quarter 2012 edition of the Wind Program R&D Newsletter.

Comparing the combined impact of current state and federal policies for distributed wind and exploring the best ways to expand markets are now easier due to a recent facelift of the Distributed Wind Policy Comparison Tool funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Version 2.0 of the Distributed Wind Policy Comparison Tool includes updates reflecting changes in market conditions, refined assumptions, and improved user interface elements. The policy tool's overall design and operation were revamped to increase usability and flow with a more intuitive, self-guided experience through the various pages, and users can now adjust the assumed annual energy production with a slider bar on the technical page. Incentive calculations for numerous states including California, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin are updated based on the policy tool's customized feed from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

Other updates include changes to retail electric rates and renewable energy credit prices; adjustments to power curves, ratings, pricing, and towers for pre-populated wind turbine models; an increase of the wind shear factor assumption; an expanded glossary; and a detailed state-by-state net metering reference table in the accompanying user guide. New turbine models and tower options replace two models no longer commercially available, and expired federal and state programs were removed.

First released in 2011, the policy tool is a one-stop shop for information related to the cost, policies, incentives, and other details associated with distributed wind generation. The encoded financial model (based on a financial analysis prepared with a set of assumptions) pools data from numerous sources and crunches user-selected variables to calculate the impacts that rebates, tax credits, and other incentives have on project economics. Key financial results, including the number of years to simple payback, the cost of energy, the internal rate of return, and net present value are provided for each state and sector.

The policy tool was created to help policymakers, industry representatives, and advocates better understand what makes a successful distributed wind market environment and keep tabs on the complex, ever-changing landscape to improve the bottom line. Users can learn what policy improvements—including overcoming zoning and interconnection hurdles, as well as rebates and tax incentives driving sales—are most needed for on-site wind turbines and where. The policy tool enables rapid sensitivity analyses on various policy options and assumptions to reveal optimal combinations.