Big Stimulus Bill Might Help Small Wind Turbines

John Davis

While large-scale infrastructure projects grab the headlines, the recently passed gargantuan-sized $787 billion economic stimulus bill might end up helping a small, emerging, renewable energy business in the United States.

This story from CNN says the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009… with its 30 percent investment tax credit for those who buy wind turbines for homes or small businesses… could give a real kick to the small wind turbine industry:

smallwindEven amid a recession, this tax credit “is going to blow the top off the market,” said Ron Stimmel, a “small-wind” advocate with the American Wind Energy Association.

The association predicts the federal subsidy could help the small-turbine market grow by 40 to 50 percent annually, a boost that would parallel the growth of the U.S. solar photovoltaic industry after a similar 2005 initiative.

Unlike the towering windmills sprouting en masse from the Western Plains, small wind turbines have a capacity of 100 kilowatts or less and are designed to operate on the consumer side of the power grid, often in combination with solar panels.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, the United States is already the world’s leading manufacturer of small-wind technologies, holding roughly two-thirds of the world’s market share. Last year, American companies made 98 percent of the small wind turbines sold in the United States.

To conservation-minded home or business owners, the turbines are an investment in clean energy and one way to ease America’s dependence on foreign oil. In the right location, a 10-kilowatt turbine could supply the entire electricity needs of an average American household. The newly subsidized larger models can help power small businesses, farms and schools.

Of course, there are some limitations to where these wind turbines can go up. Most of them need to have at least an acre of open ground around them, without trees or buildings to dampen the wind. But new technologies are being developed to have more rooftop wind turbines with either corkscrew or paddle-wheel designs put up on buildings in some of those urban areas. The potential sure seems to be there.