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The Wind Energy Technologies Office’s activities for wind technologies used in distributed applications—or distributed wind—address the performance and reliability challenges associated with smaller turbines by focusing on technology development, testing, certification, and manufacturing. 

The above animation explains the distributed wind system and illustrates how a turbine at a residential home can offset its energy usage. If you can't see the animation, please read our text version

What Is Distributed Wind?

The Wind Energy Technologies Office defines distributed wind in terms of technology application, based on a wind plant's location relative to end-use and power distribution infrastructure, rather than technology or project size. The following wind system attributes are used by the office to characterize them as distributed:

  • Proximity to End-Use: Wind turbines that are installed at or near the point of end-use for the purposes of meeting onsite energy demand or supporting the operation of the existing distribution grid.
  • Point of Interconnection: Wind turbines that are connected on the customer side of the meter (also known as behind-the-meter), directly to the distribution grid, or are off-grid in a remote location.

Distributed wind energy systems are commonly installed on, but are not limited to, residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial, and community sites, and can range in size from a 5 kilowatt turbine at a home to multi-megawatt turbines at a manufacturing facility or connected to a local distribution system.

An analysis of behind-the-meter distributed wind potential in the United States found that distributed wind systems are technically feasible for approximately 49.5 million residential, commercial, or industrial sites, or about 44% of all U.S. buildings. This analysis shows that the distributed wind market opportunity is significant, and distributed wind has potential to play an increasing role in the U.S. electricity sector. In order for distributed wind to realize these opportunities, technology cost reduction—including reductions in turbine costs, balance of system costs, and soft costs, as well as performance improvement—is necessary but not sufficient. Increasing access to low-cost capital, and standardizing site assessment, project development and installation processes will also be important drivers.

Small wind turbine technology, which includes turbines that have a rated capacity of less than or equal to 100 kilowatts, is the primary technology type used in distributed wind energy applications and is the focus of the office's technology R&D efforts for distributed applications.

Learn more about distributed wind with OpenEI's Small Wind Guidebook, which includes FAQs, wind resource maps, and lists of financial incentives and contacts.

Goals

The Wind Energy Technologies Office aims to maximize stakeholder confidence in turbine performance and safety and improve project performance while reducing installed cost in order to be competitive with retail electric rates and other forms of distributed generation. The office's goals fall under one or both of the following focus areas:

  • Wind Technology Certification: Increase the number of small and medium wind turbine designs certified to performance and safety standards from a 2010 baseline of zero to 40 by 2020.
  • Cost of Energy: Reduce the Levelized Cost of Energy of wind turbine technology used in distributed applications to be competitive with retail electricity rates and other sources of distributed generation.

Wind technology used in distributed applications is an important element of the U.S. wind and energy industries because:

  • The United States is a world leader in the export of small wind turbines, representing significant opportunity to create jobs through growth of domestic and international markets
  • Distributed wind does not require new transmission infrastructure and can take advantage of available capacity on local distribution grids
  • Wind technology used in distributed applications has great potential to compete in residential and commercial retail electricity markets
  • The social and economic benefits from distributed wind projects stay local
  • Grid connected distributed wind energy systems configured for emergency power can provide electricity to the loads they serve during natural disasters.

Research Project Highlights

Below are some of the key research project highlights from the office's distributed wind research. For a comprehensive interactive listing of distributed wind R&D projects being funded by the Wind Energy Technologies Office, see the Wind Energy Technologies Office Projects Map and select Program Area: Distributed Wind.

Testing for Certification

The growth of the international small wind industry has seen a large number of new products enter the U.S. market without a framework for verifying manufacturers' claims about turbine performance, reliability, noise, and safety. In response, the Wind Energy Technologies Office supported the development of technical standards that can now be used voluntarily to test small wind turbines to performance and safety criteria, and helped establish the Small Wind Certification Council, which provides accredited third party verification of test results in accordance with internationally adopted technical standards for testing. Four small wind turbine regional test centers have also been established with support from the office.

The office views small wind turbine certification as a way to provide manufacturers with the parameters for communicating transparent and credible information to consumers, utilities, lenders, and policymakers about the safety, performance, and durability of small wind turbine. A unified list of certified wind turbines is maintained by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

Competitiveness Improvement Project

DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory supports a Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) as part of its multifaceted wind energy research portfolio to help the U.S. wind industry develop competitive, high-performance technology for domestic and global energy markets. The CIP aims to help manufacturers of small and mid-size wind turbines improve their turbine design and manufacturing processes while reducing costs and improving efficiency, as well as work toward certification. Certification for these turbines is important because it demonstrates to consumers that they meet performance and safety requirements. Learn more about funded projects in the Competitiveness Improvement Project factsheet.

Distributed Wind News

EERE Announces New FY21 Topics for Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer
EERE’s FY 2021 topics include a commercialization opportunity for a wind turbine blade design developed by Sandia National Laboratories.
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A Gust-o for Training: Distributed Wind for Federal Agencies
New training covers basics and explains how and where systems could be installed.
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On-Demand Wind Training Now Available for Federal Agencies
A new training course called Selecting, Implementing, and Funding Distributed Wind Systems in Federal Facilities is now available.
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U.S. Distributed Wind Manufacturers Selected to Advance Wind Technologies and Grid Support Capabilities through DOE Competitiveness Impro...
8 new projects aim to drive down cost of distributed wind energy, improve grid support capabilities, and increase turbine certification testing
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Celebrating American Wind Week: WETO Shows Wind Is the Answer
As we celebrate American Wind Week, let’s look at some of WETO’s most exciting wind energy research this year.
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California State University Maritime Academy and James Madison University Claim Top Awards in First Virtual Collegiate Wind Competition
After four days of intense virtual presentations, the Energy Department announced the winners of the 2020 Collegiate Wind Competition.
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Working To Ensure Wind Is Part of Distributed Energy Future
International team examines solutions to make wind systems competitive in the distributed energy market.
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EERE Announces $21.3 Million for Phase I Small Business Innovation Projects
Selected small businesses are receiving Phase I grants that demonstrate technical feasibility for innovations during the first phase of their research
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Competitiveness Improvement Project Issues RFP
Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) RFP is accepting applications through March 31, 2020.
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Distributed Wind Competitiveness Improvement Project Helps Manufacturers Develop, Certify Next-Gen Technologies
The goals of the CIP are to make wind energy cost competitive and increase the number of wind turbine designs certified to national testing standards.
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Distributed Wind Photo Gallery

For more information about the case studies highlighted this gallery, see the Distributed Wind Photo Gallery.

Featured Publications

Market Opportunities for Deployable Wind Systems for Defense and Disaster Response
Report assessing the opportunity for deployable wind energy systems to meet the energy needs of defense and disaster response activities.
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Defense & Disaster Deployable Turbine Fact Sheet
The D3T fact sheet outlines the opportunity for deployable wind energy systems to meet the energy needs of defense and disaster response activities.
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Tools Assessing Performance Fact Sheet
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Tools Assessing Performance (TAP) project aims to improve wind resource characterization.
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Microgrids, Infrastructure Resilience, and Advanced Controls Launchpad (MIRACL) Fact Sheet
Partnering to advance wind-hybrid distributed energy systems to provide flexibility, security, and resilience to distribution systems and microgrids.
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2018 Distributed Wind Market Report
The 2018 Distributed Wind Market Report provides stakeholders with statistics and analysis of the distributed wind market.
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2018 Distributed Wind Market Report Fact Sheet
The 2018 Distributed Wind Market Report Fact Sheet highlights key findings from the 2018 Distributed Wind Market Report.
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Wind Innovations for Rural Economic Development Workshop Report
The workshop shared information about needs, challenges, and experiences unique to distributed energy resources and distributed wind energy systems.
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Competitiveness Improvement Project Fact Sheet
The Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) is a periodic solicitation through the U.S. Department of Energy and NREL.
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Assessment of the Economic Potential of Distributed Wind in Colorado, Minnesota, and New York
This publication identifies current and future economic potential for behind-the-meter distributed wind energy systems.
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Assessing the Future of Distributed Wind: Opportunities for Behind-the-Meter Projects

This first-of-a-kind exploratory analysis characterizes the future opportunity for behind-the-meter distributed wind. Opportunities for behind-the...

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