June 24, 2010

Small Wind, Big Breakthrough

Small Wind Certification Council Announces the First 13 Turbines to Begin Certification Process The small wind industry took a big step forward, as the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) announced that 13 turbine models have begun the process of SWCC certification to the American Wind Energy Association Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard. SWCC…

Small Wind Certification Council Announces the First 13 Turbines to Begin Certification Process

The small wind industry took a big step forward, as the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) announced that 13 turbine models have begun the process of SWCC certification to the American Wind Energy Association Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard. SWCC began accepting applications in February to verify the durability, function, power performance, and acoustic characteristics of small wind turbines in accordance with the AWEA Standard. SWCC anticipates it will certify the first turbine by fall 2010. Most of the turbines with pending certification applications will receive certification decisions in 2011.

“It’s great to be at the point where we have pending applications,” said Brent Summerville, PE, Technical Director of the SWCC.  “I’m looking forward to reviewing them and issuing the first certification.”

The SWCC has Pending Certification Applications from American Zephyr, Bergey Windpower, Cascade Engineering, Endurance Wind Power, Eveready Diversified Products, Renewegy, Seaforth Energy, Southwest Windpower, UrWind, Ventera Energy, and Xzeres Wind.  For a complete list, including turbine models, visit the SWCC website.

“It’s exciting to see so many turbine manufacturers submitting applications to the Small Wind Certification Council in its inaugural months,” said Larry Sherwood, Executive Director of the SWCC.  “The standardized certification will be a big breakthrough that will help drive the growth of small wind.”

Certification will enable consumers to make more informed decisions about small wind turbines. But, more importantly, states and utilities can use SWCC certification as a means to qualify turbines that are eligible for incentives. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) accepts SWCC certification for qualification for rebates, and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) requires either SWCC certification or NYSERDA qualification.

As of January 1, 2012, small wind turbines without certification will no longer be eligible for incentives from the Energy Trust of Oregon. Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy has established a new provisional incentive for small wind turbines pending certification.

Several other states and utilities have identified SWCC certification as a pathway to eligibility for incentives or expect to require certification as a requirement for eligibility for funding or interconnection, including programs in: California, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, and Vermont.

SWCC certification is an independent confirmation that a small wind turbine has been tested and designed according to the requirements of the AWEA Standard.  More information on the certification process is available at www.smallwindcertification.org.  SWCC will update the list of pending applications on its website as new pending applications are accepted.

What is SWCC Certification?

The SWCC certification is an independent, third-party verification that a small wind turbine meets the requirements of the AWEA Standard, AWEA 9.1 – 2009 Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard.  The AWEA Standard incorporates, with modifications, existing International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards for small wind turbines.  The certification is available for turbines with a swept area up to 200 square meters (approximately 2,150 square feet or 65 kW).

The certification process includes both field testing and structural analysis of the wind turbine. Tests must be conducted according to the AWEA Standard and SWCC policies.  Turbines must be tested at actual sites in “free air” — wind tunnel testing is not permitted under AWEA or IEC small wind turbine standards. Testing a small wind turbine to the requirements of the AWEA standard can be expected to take at least 6 months, depending on the wind regime in which the test facility is located. Testing and reporting may take as much as 1 or 2 years to complete. The structural analysis of the wind turbine can be performed in parallel with the field-testing.

Some testing organizations, such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), are accredited to perform power performance, duration and acoustic testing to recognized standards. Test reports from accredited organizations will require the minimum level of scrutiny from the SWCC.  Testing performed by non-accredited organizations will require on-site audits and a higher level of scrutiny to independently verify the test setup complies with the standard, the competence of the organization, and the quality of the test reports.

A number of different testing organizations will test the turbines with pending SWCC applications. SWCC has posted a list of potential test organizations (not an endorsement; may not be all-inclusive) that wish to test small wind turbines for the North American market.

The U.S. Department of Energy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and other sponsors have provided financial assistance to SWCC to aid start-up of the small wind turbine certification program. A list of all funders is on the SWCC website.

Who Uses Certification?

In a 2006 SWCC survey, numerous state and utility incentive program managers indicated that certification could help expand their programs for small wind turbines. More than half of the states, utilities, and funding agencies with existing requirements for small wind turbines who responded to the SWCC survey indicated that they expect to use certification to supplement or replace these procedures.

The growth of small wind is often tied to state and utility incentives and rebates.  Currently, many states rely on the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) lists to qualify small wind turbines for incentive programs.  NYSERDA itself now accepts SWCC certification as a means to be included on its list of certified wind turbines.  As turbines become certified, program managers for those incentives plan on simplifying the qualification procedures by adopting SWCC certification as a means of eligibility.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) currently requires certification by SWCC or NYSERDA qualification, and intends to rely primarily on the SWCC certified turbine list in the future. The Energy Trust of Oregon will end its internal review process and rely on certification by SWCC for turbines to qualify for incentives in Oregon as of January 1, 2012.  In Wisconsin, Focus on Energy has aligned its requirements to SWCC and is offering new incentives for turbines seeking certification.  Focus on Energy will soon announce its date that it will require certification for all turbines to stay or become eligible for incentives.

“Vermont looks forward to incorporating the SWCC’s certification process into the state Incentive Program,” notes Gabrielle Stebbins, Program Administrator for the Vermont Renewable Energy Incentive Program. “Improving the reliability of performance estimates is a significant step towards increasing customer adoption of wind technology.”

The Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) Database has current information on dozens of state and utility policies for small wind incentive programs, and SWCC’s website provides direct links to several expecting to require certification.

What is the SWCC Application Process?

The 13 applicants have initiated certification approval through the SWCC by submitting of a Notice of Intent to Submit an Application, which includes the details of the wind turbine and proposed test plans.  These include the submission of a Configuration Description form and a Preliminary Review Fee. Based on the information provided, SWCC develops a customized Certification Agreement between the applicant and SWCC confirming requirements for testing, analysis, and other details of the certification process.

To complete the certification application, turbines must provide complete results of testing.  Certification applicants may choose to use an accredited or non-accredited laboratory or to conduct the testing themselves. Non-accredited testing organizations are required to sign a testing agreement with the SWCC, agreeing to perform appropriate tests on the turbine to be certified and agreeing to the test plans and SWCC test site evaluation.

The process of completing SWCC certification will depend on the quality of the test reports and level of issue resolution required.  SWCC certification is expected to take approximately 2 to 4 months, once test reports and an application is received. Once a product has been certified, SWCC will issue a summary report, which will contain the rated annual energy, rated power, rated sound level, and other technical information. The report will also note that the turbine model meets the durability and safety requirements of the AWEA Standard.

Source:  Small Wind Certification Council