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Lack of policy support is the main barrier for small wind take-off

Most attention in the wind sector goes to large wind turbines and utility scale projects, but in the small and medium sized wind energy market a lot is happening as well and this market is growing. Fuelled by the spread of innovative financing programmes centred around the leasing model, growth in the installation of small and medium wind turbine (SMWT) power systems is accelerating. According to a recent report from Navigant Research, worldwide revenue from SMWTs will grow from US$ 1 billion in 2015 to nearly US$ 2.4 billion in 2023.

In the long term, however, the overall outlook for the small and medium wind market in each country will be determined by whether the industry can reduce costs and survive in the face of declining or disappearing government subsidies. Growth in small wind power, to date, has been tied to state and federal incentives in the UK, Italy and the USA. There are many signs that the industry is maturing, including certification requirements, the hundreds of manufacturers located around the world, expanding dealer networks and a growing number of state- and federal-level industry associations. In addition, an increasing number of applications are being enabled by the interest and investment in microgrids and hybrid systems that integrate small wind with solar photovoltaic and diesel generators, among other renewable distributed energy generation technologies. The World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) recently released its global small wind statistics and small wind capacity installed worldwide has now reached more than 755MW.

The WWEA also stated that small wind has recently been neglected by renewable energy policy-makers. Lack of policy support and administrative and bureaucratic hurdles are still the main barriers for small wind. However, two European countries have recently taken important steps to boost their domestic markets for small wind turbines. Denmark is preparing the introduction of a feed-in tariff (FiT) for small wind turbines. The planned remuneration is € 0.33 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for units up to 10kW and € 0.20 per kWh for up to 25kW. Poland has adopted a new renewable energy law which will include a FiT for small wind turbines as well. Up to 3kW the FiT will be € 0.17 per kWh, while up to 10kW the rate will be € 0.15 per kWh. This decision has the potential to create major changes in the Polish renewable energy market, which has so far not been based on local and domestic investors. The indicated feed-in rates, if implemented in a comprehensive way, will allow the small wind sector in both countries to grow substantially. Denmark and Poland are aiming to enable citizens and small businesses to harvest wind power for electricity generation and to support their domestic small wind sector, thus also creating opportunities for export of small wind equipment.

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Floris Siteur

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