Distributed Wind Energy

photo of distributed wind turbines

The distributed wind market includes wind turbines and projects of many sizes, from small wind turbines on private land providing less than 1 kilowatt (kW) of energy to multi-megawatt wind farms that power campuses or large facilities. The turbines can provide all of the power used at a location or can provide part of the power to offset utility bills.

Why Distributed Wind Matters

The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently published an analysis of the U.S. distributed wind market suggesting that there could be a substantive role in the nation's electricity future for behind-the-meter distributed wind—systems used primarily by their owner. The resource is large, and there are conditions under which the economics for large quantities (tens of gigawatts) become viable over time.

The Energy Department, in partnership with the Small Wind Certification Council and NREL, conducts research to increase the number of certified small wind turbines on the market and increase consumer confidence in their performance.

Community Wind Power

At first glance, some community wind projects may resemble standard land-based, utility-scale wind projects. They can include several midsize wind turbines connected to a single grid. However, where they differ is the recipient of the energy. Community wind projects deliver electricity to a local community and, while the energy may be shared by many people in the community, it does not make its way into the main utility transmission grid. One of the defining characteristics of a community wind project is that most of the project benefits remain in the local community.

Residential Wind Energy

Small wind projects can be as simple as a single wind turbine on private property. Residential distributed wind allows landowners to harness the energy created by wind and use as much as they need to power their home and other buildings on the property. The energy created using distributed wind can stay off the grid, or a landowner can connect a turbine to the grid.

More Information on Distributed Wind

These resources provide additional information about distributed wind.

The Distributed Wind Ordinances slideshow provides an introduction to distributed wind projects and a brief overview of topics to consider when developing a distributed wind energy ordinance: turbine height restrictions, setback requirements, sound standards, and permitting.

Frequently Asked Questions on Small Wind Systems

The common questions answered on this page will help you determine whether a small wind energy system is practical for powering your home.

2019 Distributed Wind Data Summary

The U.S. distributed wind sector, which includes power from wind turbines installed near where the power will be used, added 18 MW of new distributed wind capacity in 17 states in 2019, bringing the national total to 1,145 MW from more than 85,000 turbines. Industrial and utility customers accounted for the majority of distributed wind capacity installed in 2019.

Small Wind Guidebook

This guidebooks helps homeowners and communities learn more about distributed wind and whether installing a small wind turbine might be a good investment. The guidebook includes FAQs, wind resource maps, and a description of the steps to install distributed wind.

Distributed Wind Case Studies and Photo Gallery

The U.S. Department of Energy's Distributed Wind Installers Collaborative developed case studies to illustrate examples of successful projects. A photo gallery is also provided to educate consumers on the many facets and opportunities within the distributed wind industry.

Distributed Wind Research Program Workshop Report

This report summarizes findings from a distributed wind research program workshop held virtually during August 26 and 27 and September 24, 2020. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office organized the workshop to bring together laboratory and industry project stakeholders to educate, collaborate, and innovate.

How Permitting, Zoning Issues Differ for Distributed Wind

This audio interview provides a discussion of issues relevant to distributed wind.

Wind Energy Ordinances

Federal, state, and local regulations govern many aspects of wind energy development and are important to the development of distributed wind projects. This site provides more than 500 ordinances that could be used as a guide to understand some of the restrictions around the deployment of distributed wind energy projects.

How Do I Get Wind Power?

Learn how you can own, partner with, host, and support wind power.

Maps & Data