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Making the Best Use of Incentive Dollars for Small Wind
Mick Sagrillo sits on the
NABCEP board of directors,
is co-chair of the Small
Wind Technical Committee,
and is a NABCEP-certified
owns eFormative Options,
a consulting firm that helps
form and advance sustainable endeavors. She has
worked as a small-wind
advocate for the American
Wind Energy Association
and served on the board of
By MICk SAGRILLO
with HEATHER RHOADS-WEAvER
Many renewable energy advocates in the United States look abroad with interest, given the robust support offered for distributed renewables, especially in the United Kingdom, Germany,
Spain, Ontario and now Nova Scotia. Ironically, it was
states such as California that originally offered power
purchase contracts (then called “standard offers,” now
called “Feed-In Tariffs,” or FITs) to help build a wholesale renewable energy industry in the 1980s.
Given recent success with lucrative FITs for photovoltaics in Germany, Spain and Ontario, and for small
wind in the United Kingdom, growing numbers of
distributed-wind advocates are calling for FITs in North
America. Nova Scotia’s restrictive definition of small
wind, however, is causing some startup hiccups there.
And a major challenge for distributed renewables in
the United States has been the patchwork of state net-metering and renewable energy credit markets, along
with short-lived incentive programs.
Rhode Island’s recently launched FIT rate of 13. 4
cents per kilowatt-hour
(k Wh) for small wind, similar to rates set in Hawaii and
Washington state but lower
than the full retail electricity rate there, may not be
enough to attract substantial
development for the sector.
However, if other states or
Congress enacted FITs for
small wind, how would such
policies impact economics, and what pricing would
appropriately stimulate the
market? Could true statewide net metering covering
more rural areas alone help
drive growth, or are financing programs needed to aid
in consumer uptake?
A New and Useful Tool
A new Distributed Wind Policy Comparison Tool
(available at windpolicytool.org), funded by the U.S.
Department of Energy, helps to answer these questions. A project team from eFormative Options, the
North Carolina Solar Center, the Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory used the tool to study what combinations of
38 January/February 2012 SOLAR TODAY solartoday.org
Copyright © 2012 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.
FITs and related policies are needed for small-wind