New certification system to standardise turbines

A new North American Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) is being set up to provide standardised power output and sound performance ratings for turbines up to 65 kW in size. The council will certify turbines based on a standard developed by the American Wind Energy Association, which will likely be finalised by February. SWCC will develop the testing requirements and verify and certify test results, says Heather Rhoads-Weaver of eFormative Options LLC, who was involved in the development of the council. It expects to start receiving applications in the fourth quarter of 2008 and issuing certification labels by February 2009. The labels will give the turbine's rated annual energy output, rated power and rated sound level. The label will also confirm the turbine meets durability and safety requirements. "If you are a buyer of megawatt-scale wind turbines, you can look at a power curve and know what it means. But for a lay person looking to buy one of these, we want to make it really easy to understand and compare," says Rhoads-Weaver. Inconsistent reporting of small turbine performance has been a problem, says the Canadian Wind Energy Association's Sean Whittaker. "Not only were the tests hard to compare just in terms of what power output they gave at what wind speed, but also for the most part the manufacturers did the tests themselves. There are stories of manufactures putting their turbines on the back of pickup trucks and driving down the road to see what the output of the turbines was." Both Whittaker and Rhoads-Weaver say the added credibility that certification will bring to the small turbine sector should help efforts to get government incentive programs in place.