Small wind turbines: U.S. wind power market shrinks, manufacturing grows with exports

While the U.S. small wind turbine market decreased 26 percent in 2011, exports drove a 13.4 percent increase in U.S. manufacturer sales, according to AWEA’s 2011 Small Wind Turbine Market Report, which was released in full this week. A fact sheet on the report’s results was released in the spring, and now the full report is available online.

In the U.S., more than 19 MW of small wind systems were installed, with revenues totaling $115 million. More than 7,300 small wind turbines were installed in the U.S. in 2011 for the sixth consecutive year (for comparison purposes, almost twice the number of utility-scale turbines installed). More than 150,000 total small wind turbines have been installed cumulatively in the last decade, and in 2011, cumulative installed U.S. capacity increased to 198 MW.

Four U.S. manufacturers reported annual sales greater than 1 MW, and 27 manufacturers with a U.S. presence reported sales of 60 turbine models. While domestic sales by U.S. manufacturers accounted for an 80 percent share of the U.S. market by capacity and 90 percent of turbines sold, 54 percent of U.S. manufacturers’ output went to foreign markets—a major increase from 2010.

As for global trends, the 27 small wind turbine manufacturers from North America, Europe, and South Africa that responded to AWEA’s small-wind survey reported total 2011 worldwide sales of $397 million, with 21,000 units totaling more than 64 MW sold.

The report found that while the federal 30 percent Investment Tax Credit for small wind systems remained an important financial incentive in 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and U.S. Treasury 1603 payments supported 200 small wind installations in 30 states.

Meanwhile, state distributed energy incentives, in spite of being under fire in certain states for various reasons (more on that below), remained a major driver, particularly in Alaska, California, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin. More than 25 states offered small wind incentives.

State programs experiencing difficulties because of quality issues with relatively unknown turbines will soon get support from the maturing industry. In 2011, the Small Wind Certification Council certified two turbine models that passed testing against the AWEA Standard, and 26 additional turbine models were scheduled for certification testing by five regional Test Centers. In addition, the Interstate Turbine Advisory Council emerged, with states collaborating to develop a comprehensive list of qualified turbines and incentive qualification guidelines.

By Carl Levesque, AWEA Editor & Publications Manager,