Industry gossip of changes afoot

Southwest Windpower the company that makes the most popular brands of small wind turbines in the USA has shut up shop abruptly although the products will continue to be made by other companies in future.  Turbulent times for small wind worldwide, following the collapse of Proven in the UK in 2011.

It is rumoured that SMA are planning to discontinue their ‘Windyboy‘ range of inverters.  SMA pioneered the use of solar inverters for small wind but there are plenty of other options available these day.

Small wind is feeling strong competition from the PV industry at present with the price of PV at rock bottom levels but how much lower can that price go?  The Chinese solar PV industry that has put such pressure on the worldwide manufacture with very low prices, is now going bust.  This is a good time to buy solar panels!  But harder to find a grid-tied inverter manufacturer that will stay in business for long.

My opinion is that small wind turbines work best in off-grid situations, and that the recent fashion for mass producing them and installing them on poor sites for grid connection is not sustainable.  New contracts for feed-in-tariffs cannot go on being available for much longer, and without them this size of turbine can never compete with multi-megawatt windfarm machines installed on windy hilltops or offshore even.  But an off-grid turbine brings power where there is none, working with PV to keep the battery up and the generator down.

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2 Responses to Industry gossip of changes afoot

  1. Quentin says:

    You may well be right. In Ireland, already the export tariff has been reduced a derisory 19c (for power exported, not production) to 9c. Government attitude is, if the wind farms can produce power for 7c or less, why pay more for small turbines? That put the brakes on small turbine production over here….

  2. I completely agree, bringing power to places where there is none is by far the most important role in my eyes too. However apart from allowing their owners to green wash their properties, there are a few advantages of having grid-connected small wind turbines over their much more financially competitive utility scale cousins:
    a) they’re closer to the demand points, so minimise transmission losses
    b) they open up another set of potential sites, which in an industry plagued with NIMBYism is actually quite important. Our rainy little island is not that big compared with the vast amount of people that inhabit it, so I imagine that one day we will fill up all the viable sites for wind farms and small wind sites maybe all that are left. Of course, as Hugh states, these sites are generally of much lower quality in terms of the wind resource as they’re constrained within a few hundred meters or so of the building they are connected to.
    c) they contribute more to network resilience, i.e. a problem with a big wind turbine causes a big drop in the power available in that region, however many problems with many small wind turbines all over the country reduce the power available in each place by just a little bit
    d) they bring down the prices of small wind turbines in general, meaning we get cheaper bits for our off-grid systems!

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