DOE and Its National Laboratories Launch the National Distributed Wind Network! Participation in the network is open to any individual interested in distributed wind energy deployment. View the recording of the March 2024 Distributed Wind Network Webinar to learn more and join the network.

Explore Distributed Wind Opportunities! Check out current opportunities, announcements, and events for distributed wind energy.

Overview

Distributed wind turbines can be connected to an electricity delivery system or used in off-grid applications to serve on-site energy demand or local loads on the same distribution network. Wind turbines used as distributed energy resources can range in size from a few hundred watts for an isolated minigrid, to kilowatts for a single residence or small business, to multimegawatts to power manufacturing facilities or other nearby loads. Distributed wind energy can be used in residential, commercial, industrial, government, institutional, utility, community, and agricultural applications, diversifying local energy sources to help provide clean, renewable energy while increasing power system reliability and resilience.

Today’s advancements in distributed wind turbine technology represent a significant leap forward from previous iterations, largely attributed to substantial investments and dedicated efforts through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Competitiveness Improvement Project. Established wind turbine manufacturers and improved technology help bolster distributed wind energy’s role in facilitating energy transitions for communities.

image of a wind turbine

A Skystream 3.7 wind turbine at Allegheny High School in North Carolina. Photo by Brent Summerville, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

This resource hub is designed to help anyone interested in harnessing the power of distributed wind. It serves as a directory of curated, targeted links to resources, including:

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General Distributed Wind Information

Many resources are available to help provide a solid foundation of basic distributed wind knowledge.

Review our page on distributed wind energy and the Department of Energy's How Do Wind Turbines Work?.

See Frequently Asked Questions on Small Distributed Wind Systems or browse the Small Wind Guidebook for information for consumers on small wind installations (both distributed and grid-connected).

Case studies serve as invaluable resources for gaining a deeper understanding of the varied applications of wind energy and for drawing insights from the experiences of well-established projects. Explore an interactive animation and read about several applications in the following case studies:

image of a wind turbine

The Kodiak Electric Association installed wind turbines to help meet the renewable power goals of Kodiak Island, Alaska. The turbines are integrated into the community’s isolated grid system. Photo from Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

According to the DOE Distributed Wind Market Report, more than 1,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity have been installed in distributed wind applications across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. Turbine technology advancements, including advancements in blade design, towers, and drivetrains, have led to a trend of increased turbine capacity and efficiency contributing to the growth in the distributed wind market. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory maintains Distributed Wind Data in the United States.

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Project Funding Opportunities

Federal, state, and local funding opportunities are available for distributed wind energy projects.

Review the following resources for funding opportunities, including:

  • The Advancing the Growth of the U.S. Wind Industry: Federal Incentives, Funding, and Partnership Opportunities fact sheet outlines federal opportunities related to funding wind energy projects; it is not specific to distributed wind. Note that DOE does not fund the purchase or installation of wind energy systems by individuals or companies.
  • The DOE Energy Community Tax Credit Bonus map provides preliminary data about communities eligible for the Inflation Reduction Act Energy Community Tax Credit Bonus.
  • The Funding Clearinghouse database compiles federal funding opportunities that are reviewed and updated weekly using publicly available information. Select “wind” and “small wind” in the “Eligible Recipient” dropdown menu to sort by these funding opportunities.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy For America Program (REAP) offers grants and low-interest loans for renewable energy projects for rural small businesses and agricultural producers in communities of 50,000 residents or less. Distributed wind energy projects are often eligible for this funding. Listen to an interview that provides more details about distributed wind and REAP funding.
  • The American-Made Challenges: SOLVE IT Prize was designed to support communities as they identify and implement innovative clean energy solutions to address their unique needs and challenges. The prize will award competitors with a demonstrated history of productive work with communities. Competitors will work collaboratively with stakeholders interested in community-scale (neighborhood-, town-, or city-scale) planning around clean energy to engage their communities, build a network of support for clean energy or decarbonization projects, and develop plans for carrying out these projects.
  • Learn more about financial incentives and tax credits of wind energy.
  • Community members looking for training and other assistance to build capacity for navigating federal grant application systems, developing strong grant proposals, and effectively managing grant funding can access one of 16 Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTACs). Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EJ TCTACs provide comprehensive coverage for the entire United States through a network of more than 160 partners including community-based organizations, additional academic institutions, and other stakeholders so more communities can access federal funding opportunities. All centers are currently scheduled to operate from October 2023 to October 2028.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency compiles state and local funding opportunities. Search for wind energy opportunities and filter by zip code, although the database does not specifically isolate distributed wind energy funding.

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Technical Assistance Opportunities

Many technical resources are available to assist with planning a distributed wind energy project.

Prior to assessing a local wind resource, someone interested in distributed wind energy may wish to use wind maps to conservatively estimate the wind resource at the wind turbine’s hub height (the distance from the ground to the middle of the turbine's rotor that connects the blades). Although these maps do not provide a high resolution of specific site features, they can provide a general indication of good or poor wind resources. DOE’s WINDExchange website offers wind resource maps for distributed wind projects at 30-, 40-, 50-, and 60-meter hub heights. See wind resource maps for all hub heights here. New to wind resource maps? Review our guide to using WINDExchange resource maps and watch A Tutorial for Understanding Land-Based and Offshore Wind Resource Maps.

The Wind Integration National Dataset Toolkit includes meteorological conditions from computer model output and calculated wind turbine power for more than 126,000 sites in the continental United States for the years 2007–2013. These data can help in estimating power production from a planned distributed wind energy project.

Tools Assessing Performance for Distributed Wind (TAP) seeks to improve distributed wind resource assessments using modern computational tools and data. TAP aims to develop a simple tool for cost-effectively and accurately assessing wind resources without having to physically take direct measurements in the field.

In addition to economic and demographic data, the Distributed Wind Mapping Tool (coming soon!) includes existing wind energy installations, which can indicate a good wind resource or an opportunity to access existing data from nearby projects to inform development decisions.

image of a wind turbine

Construction crews work to install a Bergey Windpower Co. Excel 15 wind turbine at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s distributed wind site on the Flatirons Campus near Boulder, Colorado. Photo by Joe DelNero, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Certifying a small or medium wind turbine model demonstrates that the turbine model meets performance, durability, and quality requirements, giving customers greater confidence in the products they purchase. As part of annual DOE wind energy market report research, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory tracks certified small and medium wind turbines.

As of January 2015, to be eligible to receive the small wind Business Energy Investment Tax Credit, small wind turbines must meet the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard 9.1-2009 or the International Electrotechnical Commission 61400-1, 61400-11, and 61400-12 standards. These standards address power performance, structural design, safety, and acoustic sound requirements. The following table provides a summary of current certified wind turbines and their standards.

Table 1. Certified Small Wind Turbines as of June 2023

Applicant

Turbine Model

Date of Initial Certification

Certification Standard

Bergey Windpower Company

Excel 10

11/16/2011

AWEA 9.1

Bergey Windpower Company

Excel 15

2/5/2021

AWEA 9.1

Eveready Diversified Products (Pty) Ltd.

Kestrel e400nb

2/14/2013

AWEA 9.1

Eocycle Technologies, Inc.

EOX S-16

3/21/2017

AWEA 9.1

HI-VAWT Technology Corporation / Colite Technologies

DS3000

5/10/2019

AWEA 9.1

Ryse Energy

AIR 30/AIR X

1/25/2019

IEC 61400

Ryse Energy

AIR 40/Air Breeze

2/20/2018

IEC 61400

SD Wind Energy, Ltd.

SD6

6/17/2019

AWEA 9.1

Wind Resource, LLC

Skystream 3.7

4/12/2023

AWEA 9.1

The Small Wind Certification Council provides a directory of certified turbines; users can also search this directory for wind turbine models with applications in process.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory published a report titled Distributed Wind Certification Best Practices Guideline, which attempts to simplify the certification process by organizing available information and guiding the user to the applicable set of requirements.

Wind energy ordinances adopted by counties, towns, and other types of municipalities regulate aspects of wind projects such as their location, permitting process, and construction. Ordinances may also address issues of community impact such as land use, noise standards, and safety. DOE’s WINDExchange hosts an ordinances database, but it is not exhaustive. Search the database according to large or small wind turbines and by ordinance elements (e.g., turbine height, sound standards). Note that ordinances may be different for distributed wind turbines.

Search the local county’s website to see if wind ordinances are available for viewing.

DOE will soon fund an effort to advance deployment of distributed wind by improving permitting processes to make this renewable energy source more accessible to communities where it can be cost-effectively and equitably deployed. More details will be provided here when available.

This list of Distributed Wind Installers is compiled for consumers' reference but does not represent an endorsement of any installer.

Installing distributed wind energy in a community can offer many benefits, including workforce opportunities, tourism, energy independence and, of course, clean energy and the potential to lower utilities costs or even profit off wind power. The Community Benefits Guide includes information about and examples of financial and nonfinancial offers wind energy developers may extend to nearby or otherwise impacted communities.

Near-Term Needs

The Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) program connects local governments, electric utilities, community-based groups, and others with experts from across DOE's national laboratory complex and their customized, cutting-edge analysis and technical support. C2C offers three levels of technical engagement to support community clean energy goals. For near-term needs, Expert Match can provide up to 60 hours of assistance over a 2- to 3-month period.

Longer-Term Support

DOE offers free technical assistance through a variety of programs, including:

  • The Office of Indian Energy, which offers technical assistance for tribal energy projects to federally recognized Indian Tribes, including Alaska Native regional and village corporations, and tribal entities.
  • Communities LEAP (Local Energy Action Program), which provides technical assistance to low-income, energy-burdened communities that are pursuing strategies to address environmental injustices or economic impacts​.

State, Local, and Tribal Government Technical Support Services are available from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory when technical assistance is not available through existing federally supported programs.​

The Clean Energy States Alliance developed Distributed Wind Energy Zoning and Permitting: A Toolkit for Local Governments as a resource for local governments to help them plan and zone for distributed wind energy.

The Small Community Wind Handbook and Large Community Wind Handbook provide more information on small and large wind community wind projects.

The World Resources Institute’s Local and State Clean Energy Programs provide technical assistance, education, and resources to help local and state public agencies and their communities accelerate clean energy access and development.

The following resources are specific to remote and island communities; be sure to also review the resources in the previous section, titled Who can help my community or Tribe determine if distributed wind energy is right for us?

DOE's Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project works with remote and island communities seeking to transform their energy systems and increase energy resilience.

Energy Improvement in Rural or Remote Areas provides no-cost technical assistance to communities and organizations interested in energy improvements in rural or remote areas.

The on-demand course, Selecting, Implementing, and Funding Distributed Wind Systems in Federal Facilities, explains how and where distributed wind energy systems could be installed at federal sites. The training includes an overview of what distributed wind is and covers the wind-specific issues that need to be addressed to proceed through the Federal Energy Management Program's recommended project development and implementation process (i.e., what is needed to go from an initial screening to assessing procurement options).

Another training available through the Federal Energy Management Program, Distributed Wind for Federal Agencies, demonstrates how to use publicly available wind resource assessment screening tools and locate other distributed wind tools and resources.

Access to both trainings requires creating a free account. Some of the materials will be of interest to anyone planning a distributed wind energy project.

Is Distributed Wind Right for My Local Government Facilities? This PowerPoint presentation provides an overview of distributed wind technologies, benefits, applications, and considerations so that community leaders can take the first steps to investigate whether distributed wind is right for them.

Is Distributed Wind Right for My Farm or Rural Business? This PowerPoint provides an overview of distributed wind technologies, benefits, applications, and considerations so that farmers and rural business owners can take the first steps to investigate whether distributed wind is right for them.

Community members looking for training and other assistance to build capacity for navigating federal grant application systems, developing strong grant proposals, and effectively managing grant funding can access one of 16 Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTACs). Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EJ TCTACs provide comprehensive coverage for the entire United States through a network of more than 160 partners including community-based organizations, additional academic institutions, and other stakeholders so more communities can access federal funding opportunities. All centers are currently scheduled to operate from October 2023 to October 2028.

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Models, Tools, and Toolkits

The following software applications, publications, tools, and toolkits can help individuals project costs and benefits of new distributed wind projects, including the economic development impacts.

Explore economic and demographic data in the upcoming, easy-to-use Distributed Wind Mapping Tool and understand how distributed wind could help meet specific energy needs. The tool will include economic data, demographic data, and existing wind energy installations.

The Tools Assessing Performance (TAP) project aims to develop a simple tool for cost-effectively and accurately assessing wind resources without having to physically take direct measurements in the field. Improving the accuracy and reducing the cost of desktop, or virtual, wind resource assessments will help make distributed wind energy technologies more accessible to communities and businesses seeking to transition to carbon-free electricity resources.

The levelized cost of energy calculator provides a simple way to calculate a metric that encompasses capital costs, operations and maintenance, performance, and fuel costs of renewable energy technologies.​

The Small Wind Economic Model is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to help analyze the economics of a small wind electric system and decide if it is feasible. The user provides information about how they will finance the system, the site characteristics, and the properties of the system being considered. The tool then provides a simple payback estimation (it assumes no increase in electricity rates) in years. If the number of years required to regain the capital investment is greater than or almost equal to the life of the system, then wind energy will not be practical.

REopt® is a techno-economic decision support platform used to optimize energy systems for buildings, campuses, communities, microgrids, and more.

The Jobs and Economic Development Impacts Wind model estimates the economic impacts of constructing and operating power generation plants at the local and state levels.

The Distributed Generation Market Demand (dGen™) model simulates customer adoption of distributed energy resources for residential, commercial, and industrial entities in the United States or other countries through 2050.

The Cost of Renewable Energy Spreadsheet Tool (CREST) contains economic, cash-flow models designed to assess project economics, design cost-based incentives, and evaluate the impact of state and federal support structures on renewable energy.

The System Advisor Model (SAM) is a performance and financial model designed to facilitate decision-making for people involved in the renewable energy industry by predicting performance. Its cash flow models are appropriate for distributed energy projects that buy and sell electricity at retail rates and for power generation projects that sell power at a price negotiated through a power purchase agreement. The model calculates the cost of generating electricity based on information provided about a project’s location, installation and operating costs, type of financing, applicable tax credits and incentives, and system specifications.

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Publication Information

Publication Information

Publication number FS-5000-88516

DOE/GO-102024-6157

By Ruth Baranowski and Suzanne MacDonald at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Danielle Preziuso at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wind Energy Technologies Office

This work was authored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, operated by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under Contract No. DE-AC36-08GO28308. Funding provided by U.S. Department of Energy Office of Wind Energy Technologies Office. The views expressed in the article do not necessarily represent the views of the DOE or the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the U.S. Government retains a nonexclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, worldwide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this work, or allow others to do so, for U.S. Government purposes.

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