Once again, the Small Wind Conference lived up to its reputation as the premier small wind event in the United States, with over 320 people attending from all across the US, as well as Mexico, Canada, the UK, India, Hungary, Japan, Australia, Spain, and China.
The conference, hosted by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), began with a keynote address by Trudy Forsyth, the small wind coordinator for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Following Trudy’s excellent analysis of the current state of small wind in the US, 16 manufacturers gave updates on the status of their companies and products. Of note, Bergey Windpower announced their new 10 year warranty on their turbines, which will certainly move other manufacturers to follow.
The end of the first day with its focus on manufacturers was celebrated at the MREA with an Oklahoma BBQ sponsored by Bergey Windpower, with local brew provided by Four Winds Renewable Energy of New York.
Day two featured issues of particular interest to small wind installers. The morning began with a review of the standards landscape that is unfolding in the US, include the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Small Wind Performance and Safety Certification, the Small Wind Certification Council, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) efforts to certify small wind installers, and the status of the National Electric Code (NEC) section for small wind.
Following standards, presenters focused on reports from the field about the roof top wind turbine craze, and the problems this interest is causing for serious installers, grant programs, and installations. Wind resource assessment advances, both actual and simulated on roof tops, were also presented. Joe Smith from NREL highlighted the results of the small wind testing that they have done on four turbines over the past year, including one failed turbine. The afternoon featured presentations on how to make small wind projects succeed, from grant availability to advice to manufacturers about what small wind installers need and look for from manufacturers.
The second day ended with a panel discussion by small wind stakeholders about where small wind is going over the next few years. This discussion elicited enthusiastic audience participation and questions, always a welcome development. The culmination of the conference was a reception hosted by AWEA.
The conference also saw its first poster presentations, as well as a book signing by Dan Chiras, author of the recently published Power from the Wind. [See Resources, below.] In addition, 15 exhibitors, from manufacturers to component suppliers to consultants and site assessors, answered questions about their businesses from attendees.
This year’s Small Wind Advocate Award went to Ron Stimmel, Small Wind Advocate for AWEA, in recognition for his enthusiasm, dedication, advocacy, and contributions to the small wind industry. The Small Wind Installers Award went to SED, Inc., Sustainable Energy Developments, from New York, for all the work they have done to advance the interests of small wind in the eastern US. SED is a worker-owned company with 19 employees. Kevin Schulte, Ernie Prichard, Joe Swaha, and John Trout were on hand to accept the award, including the token wrench, the symbol of all small wind installers.
In addition to the two day Small Wind Conference, a flurry of other meetings took advantage of the large number of small wind interests gathered in Wisconsin. A group of key small wind stakeholders met the evening before the conference to discuss how to advance the interests of small wind going forward in the next few years. Stakeholders included manufacturers, installers, educational interests, public benefit program representatives, and small wind advocates.
Following the Small Wind Conference, the Small Wind Certification Council board of directors met to discuss the status of small wind turbine certification, and the process for reviewing turbines once certification is in place. In addition, Dr. Rob Wills and Robert Preus, the co-chairs of the group that is developing a small wind article for the National Electric Code, held a public forum to elicit public input on the draft NEC small wind article.
Representatives of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) from around the world then convened four days of meetings to discuss changes to the small wind safety standards that the IEC is responsible for. Finally, the Energy Fair, the largest renewable energy and sustainable living event on the planet, educated and entertained all for three days.