June 24, 2010

Sixth Annual Small Wind Conference the Best Ever!

by Mick Sagrillo Once again, the Small Wind Conference has lived up to its reputation as the premier small wind event in the United States, with over 364 people attending from all across the United States, as well as Mexico, Canada, Europe, Japan, and South Korea. The conference, developed and coordinated by the Small Wind…

by Mick Sagrillo

Once again, the Small Wind Conference has lived up to its reputation as the premier small wind event in the United States, with over 364 people attending from all across the United States, as well as Mexico, Canada, Europe, Japan, and South Korea.

The conference, developed and coordinated by the Small Wind Conference coordinating committee and organized by Windustry from Minneapolis, began with a keynote address by Larry Flowers from the Wind Powering America project at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado. Following Larry’s excellent analysis of the current state of small wind in the United States, five presenters delved into the nuances of wind resource assessment and siting lessons.

Larry Flowers and Trudy Forsyth presented Robert Preus of XZERES Wind Corporation with the 2010 Wind Powering America Small Wind Advocate award for his longstanding small wind advocacy, including working with Texas, Idaho, and Oregon on removing small wind barriers with his small wind technology. Robert also worked with Dr. Rob Wills of windmonitoring.com to facilitate a small wind section for the National Electric Code. Dr. Rob Wills was recognized for his NEC leadership.

This year’s poster session featured eight presentations ranging from wind energy education to wind assessment techniques to Department of Energy/NREL regional small wind test centers.

Three sessions highlighted wind turbine manufacturers. Midsized turbines (turbines above 20 kW and up to 100 kW)—a fast growing segment of small wind installations—garnered their own session this year. In all, fifteen manufacturers gave updates on the status of their companies and products over the two days. Of note, XZERES Wind announced a new 10-year warranty on their turbines, following Bergey Windpower’s lead from last year.

New this year was a presentation by administrators of three state public-benefits programs, explaining what they look for in grant applications and installations. The end of the first day was celebrated with a social in the atrium at the conference venue Ramada Inn, with local brew provided by a variety of sponsors.

Day two began with a breakfast for the Women of Wind Energy, who have started a new chapter called Women of Small Wind Energy. The morning conference sessions began with a review of issues of particular interest to installers, including climbing safety and the organization of a working group to craft a best practices and standards document.

The standards landscape that is unfolding in the United States was covered next, in a panel featuring the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC), the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) efforts to certify small wind installers and site assessors, the status of the National Electric Code (NEC) section for small wind, and efforts by Underwriters Laboratories to develop safety codes for turbines.

Following the standards session, presenters focused on reports about turbine testing and results. The second and final day of the conference ended with Kevin Schulte of Sustainable Energy Developments in New York and Alicia Leinberger of Seventh Generation Energy Systems in Wisconsin, discussing what installers need in order to make their businesses and the small wind industry sustainable. All presentations and discussions elicited enthusiastic audience participation and questions, always a welcome portion of the conference.

Trudy Forsyth, right, and Mick Sagrillo, left, present awards to Ken Starcher, of the Alternative Energy Institute, and Lisa and Joe DiFrancisco, of North Coast Energy Systems.

This year’s Small Wind Educator Award went to Ken Starcher of the Alternative Energy Institute in Texas, in recognition of his role in advocating for small wind technology and educating numerous university students, international interns, and consumers on small wind industry issues. This year’s Small Wind Conference Installer of the Year Award was presented to Lisa and Joe DiFrancisco of North Coast Energy Systems in Pennsylvania for all the work they have done to advance the interests of small wind in the eastern United States. Awards included the token (but gigantic) wrench, the symbol of all small wind installers and advocates.

The culmination of the conference was a barbecue sponsored by Bergey Windpower at nearby Pfiffner Park on the Wisconsin River in Stevens Point. Of particular interest was the unveiling of Bergey’s new 5 kW wind generator, sure to make an impact in the marketplace once it is available.

In addition to all the conference activities and social events, this year saw a record-breaking 22 sponsors help offset the cost of the event. In addition, 25 exhibitors, from manufacturers to component suppliers to consultants and site assessors, answered questions about their businesses from attendees. Our sincerest appreciation goes out to all sponsors and exhibitors for helping to make the conference the success that it was. The 364 participants enjoyed a networking and educational event second to none in the small wind world.

In addition to the two-day Small Wind Conference, a flurry of other events took place during the conference week. Monday saw a pre-conference workshop on the Fundamentals of Wind Energy by Roy Butler of Four Winds Renewable Energy, and Jenny Heinzen, wind instructor at Lakeshore Technical College. Paralleling this workshop was our first ever Zoning Summit. Presenters included Megan Amsler of Cape & Islands Self Reliance, Mike Bergey of Bergey Windpower, David Blittersdorf of AllEarth Renewables, Lisa DiFrancisco of North Coast Energy Systems, Mick Sagrillo of Sagrillo Power & Light, and Ron Stimmel of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

A group of key small wind stakeholders met on Monday evening to discuss how to advance the interests of small wind industry going forward in the next few years. Stakeholders included manufacturers, installers, educational interests, public benefit program representatives, and small wind advocates. A new distributed wind energy association may evolve out of these discussions.

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. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) convened a group of fifteen small wind experts to develop the job task analysis for a new wind site assessor certification.

Finally, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s 21st Energy Fair, the largest renewable energy and sustainable living event on the planet, educated and entertained all for the long weekend after the conference.

The Small Wind Conference coordinating committee would like thank all who exhibited, participated, and helped with the event, especially our sponsors, including:

  • Bergey WindPower
  • XZERES Wind Corp.
  • Southwest Windpower
  • Valmont Newmark
  • Talco Electronics
  • AnemErgonics
  • Home Power magazine
  • Etesian Technologies
  • Fortis Wind Energy-US
  • Focus on Energy
  • Endurance Wind Power
  • Ohio GreenWind
  • New Roots Energy
  • Wind Turbine Industries Corp.
  • Four Winds Renewable Energy
  • All Earth Renewables
  • North Coast Energy Systems
  • Seventh Generation Energy Systems
  • DC Power Systems
  • Wisconsin Public Service NatureWise

We would especially like to thank Windustry for their work choreographing the conference logistics. Samantha Smart-Merritt, Christina Mills, and David Tidball provided outstanding support for the conference.

Plans for next year’s Small Wind Conference in central Wisconsin are being developed now. Keep your calendar open for Tuesday-Wednesday June 13 to 15, 2011.

The Small Wind Conference coordinating committee is Roy Butler, Trudy Forsyth, Jenny Heinzen, Mick Sagrillo, Brent Summerville, and Ian Woofenden.