Small wind turbines currently lack any formal industry standards or certification. This creates a market scenario in which products are given misleading power ratings at varying speeds (the higher the wind speed the more power) and durability ratings based only on internal assessment by the manufacturer. The real loser in this scenario is the consumer who is forced to get a quick doctorate in small wind prior to purchasing a turbine. This is about to change thanks to the work of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other industry stakeholders on small wind certification standards. These new standards are expected to finalize by 2010 and will finally let consumers equally compare turbines.
In anticipation of the new standards, the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) was independently created to certify small wind turbines to the new standards. The Technical Director of the SWCC is Brent Summerville, formerly the head of the Appalachian State small wind testing facility in North Carolina. Summerville spent five years at Appalachian State testing turbines and running small wind workshops. In his new role he will ensure test facilities have the technology in place to accurately test small turbines to the AWEA standards and he will also review the test data to certify that results are in compliance with the standards.
Summerville took some time to help us understand the new standards and what the SWCC will be doing:
What will be in the AWEA standards?
The new AWEA Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard refers to, with modifications, existing International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards for small wind turbines. The new standard was written to ensure the quality of the wind turbine can be assessed while imposing only reasonable costs and difficulty on the manufacturer who chooses to voluntarily certify their product and comply with the standard. The primary output will be performance test data on energy, sound, and a pass/fail duration test.
Why are standards important?
The goal of the AWEA standard is to provide meaningful criteria upon which to assess the quality of the engineering that has gone into a small wind turbine and provide consumers with performance data that will help them make informed purchasing decisions. Agencies providing financial assistance for small wind turbines increasingly link financial incentives with performance assurance so a standardized method of assessing performance must exist. Standards provide parameters for testing and evaluation, and enable the certification of safety and performance as well as provide “apples-to-apples” comparisons of different small wind turbines.
How will the SWCC be involved?
There are three essential components to hardware certification: one is a recognized standard that dictates the details of the testing and evaluation and a second is field testing and evaluation per the standard. The third is an independent certification body – in this case the SWCC – that reviews test reports, resolves variances, certifies that the wind turbine meets the requirements of the standard, and creates standardized consumer labeling.
How is SWCC funded?
Start-up funding was provided by several agencies in North America, primarily the U.S. Department of Energy and the New York State Energy R&D Authority.With significant small wind rebate programs using public funds, state agencies have a big interest in making sure turbines are certified. Our start-up funding will be supplemented by certification fees to sustain the operation.
Where will the SWCC be located and will it have a test site?
The bricks and mortar administrative office is still in development. Our staff and Board of Directors are currently positioned all over the world. We won’t operate our own test site. Instead we will work with other testing organizations that will perform the testing to the standards. NREL (the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) is an accredited testing organization, so we have a high level of confidence in test reports from their site in Colorado, but we will visit nonaccredited sites where we will perform an on-site audit of the facilities. All test reports will receive a thorough technical review.
What tests will be performed?
Power performance testing will result in an accurate power curve over a full range of wind speeds as well as a standard rated power output. Acoustic testing will result in a rated sound level that describes the acoustic characteristics of the turbine. And duration testing, which lasts for at least six months, tests the durability of the equipment in the real world. The process of testing, evaluation, and reporting can often take one year to complete. How many test sites are out there? We compiled a list of about 14 organizations that intend to participate in small wind testing. Are you able to use “in-field” data for older and more proven systems? We have to test current models to current standards. We find that the data for older turbines has expired, meaning the testing did not adhere to current standards. In a lot of cases the turbine has evolved from the old design and legacy data is unusable for certification. The 10kW Bergey, for example, has been on the market for many years, but many components were recently reinvented so it is now essentially a new turbine.
What are technical challenges of the standards and of testing against them?
As they say, the devil is in the details. Test organizations need to work hard to meet the numerous requirements of the standard and the certification body must work hard to provide rigorous technical review of the results to effectively certify the safety and performance of the turbine.
How will this impact the consumer?
Over the next few years we will populate a list of turbines with standardized labeling and some assurance of quality that will finally enable real apples-toapples comparison. You can do your own research now, but it’s a bit daunting because there are many experts and they are all very subjective. It will be nice to have one standardized list of turbines that have been tested to standards.
Filed Under: Uncategorized