Over the past few years we've seen a real interest from schools, commercial sites, and homeowners. Local and federal governments are also seeing the benefit in on-site energy generation.

The Future of Distributed Wind Power

Jennifer Jenkins, Executive Director | Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA)

Please defin​e Distributed Wind Energy and what makes it important to the future energy solution for the country?

Distributed wind is important due to its accessibility. Most of us have experienced driving on the interstate and seeing far off large wind turbines. While we enjoy seeing that wind is part of our grid, it's also on a scale that we can't relate to.  What's interesting about distributed wind and energy is that the solutions are relatable and accessible. To buy a system for the business, school or home is on a scale that we can grasp.  Beyond these elements, distributed generation supports the sustainability and health of our communities, but also puts money back into the economy by supporting the network of manufacturers, distributors and installers that take part in the industry every day. It's building sustainable solutions and economic growth - what more can we ask for?

What is the ITC and how does it fit into the larger legislative landscape?

The ITC is an investment tax credit of 30% in lieu of (instead of) the production tax credit (PTC) for all sized wind projects in the U.S. With the passage of the PTC/ITC legislation at the end of last year, our members will benefit from the message that Congress supports distributed wind. However, communities, businesses and families across the US are going to benefit the most. The tax credit enables consumers to have choices in their decisions around energy. As a trade association, our challenge is to ensure that the public understands how distributed works and why they should embrace clean renewable wind energy as an option. 

What has DWEA been doing this year to help support the passage of this legislation?

DWEA has been hard at work educating member of Congress, NGOs, and others about the importance of this credit to this segment of the wind industry. It has sponsored several Lobby Days on the Hill, written letters, and engaged social media communities to help ensure a successful extension.

Our next challenge is going to be continued support for extending the legislation in the future and also advocating for better state policies.

Each state has different process, stakeholders and challenges, but we are up diving in to craft meaningful and sustainable policy measures. For example, in 2012, we worked with the California Energy Commission to implement standards for distributed products that would save consumers potentially millions of dollars. We are actively working with other states on tariffs and overall policy parity with other renewables such as solar.

Who are the major players in DWEA and what does the association do for the industry?

Our major players are the members. Some would consider us a startup association. We haven’t been around as long as others in the renewable trade association space, but our members have been in business for decades.  It's great to be able to offer them a home base that caters to their business needs.  In terms of scale, we have members as large as multinational manufacturers to electricians that install projects on a local level - a very diverse membership.

Because of the diversity, we handle an array of issues from permitting & zoning, industry standards and certifications to state and federal tax policy. Our members have the opportunity to participate on committees that address these areas and really have a voice in how we operate as an association.

Who should consider installing wind turbines for power use (ie farmers, rural communities etc.)?

Rural communities and farms have been the obvious end-user in the past. Over the past few years we’ve seen a real interest from schools, commercial sites, and homeowners. Local and federal governments are also seeing the benefit in on-site energy generation.

If the energy rates are high and there is a wind resource in your state, then distributed wind is a good solution to explore.  We've recently worked to extend the Investment Tax Credit and are working with a number of states to create a favorable environment for adopting wind power. 

As a rule of thumb (if there is one), at what point (size and use) does is become feasible to install a wind generator?

This is tough to answer since every application is different. Some key factors to consider are energy consumption and wind resource. A larger energy consumer, such as a farm or commercial building will find that a 50kW or 100kW may serve their needs, whereas a residence or school could install a 10kW system suit their needs. Installation is really is site specific.

Other than incentives, what are the major issues facing the distributed wind industry?

Zoning issues and competition with solar is a challenge. We should be on an equal playing field with solar energy with respect to local, state and federal policy. Wind is a proven renewable source and parity with solar is our goal.  We also need to expand our outreach to local decision makers and help educate the public on why wind matters and how it can help them save money in the long run, create healthier communities and deliver an economic benefit.

What does distributed wind look like in 2020 - will it grow into more of a distributed energy discussion?

Distributed wind, and the larger distributed energy sector, is the future.

Local, clean energy will be a requirement when transmission capacity is met and the population in rural communities, as well as commercial and industrial energy users still need access to power. By 2020, distributed wind will be an inevitable source to improves environmental quality while reducing demand on foreign energy. 


Jennifer Jenkins has been the Executive Director of the Distributed Wind Energy Association since its inception in July of 2010. Ms. Jenkins has nearly ten years experience in the wind industry including her tenure at Southwest Windpower in their Government Affairs department. In this role, she provided continuous outreach to advocates of renewable energy such as non-profits, trade associations, private business owners, foundations and governments to build support for residential wind. Ms. Jenkins earned her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with an emphasis on policy and public administration from Northern Arizona University. 

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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