Sizing up small turbine market

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Vergnet Canada Ltd has begun testing two Canadian-made small wind turbines designed to supply niche markets in North America and the Caribbean. The turbines, rated at 10 kW and 60 kW, are based on a design developed by France's Vergnet SA. Two French-built machines have been installed at Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Wind Test Site (AWTS) and, over the coming months, will be fitted with components specifically engineered to meet North American standards and to withstand Canada's harsh climate.

The company hopes to begin shipping the Canadian-built machines to customers by the end of the year at a cost it predicts will be 15 to 20% lower than similar-sized turbines made in Europe or the US. Next year, it plans to develop a Canadian version of the medium power Vergnet SA wind turbine with an output of 250 to 275 kW.

Philippe Quinet of Vergnet Canada says there is a growing market for small turbines in remote areas, where wind can supplement costly diesel-run generators. In Canada, that potential has been boosted by the new federal wind production incentive, which pays up to C$0.012/kWh for projects as small as 20 kW. He also sees significant potential in North America's net metering market, especially in US states that are providing incentives for small wind turbines.

In the Caribbean, the Canadian-manufactured machine will open up new markets on islands that have the same 60Hz frequency as North American grids. More than 18 MW of Vergnet's 50Hz turbines are already installed in the region. The Canadian government contributed C$1.1 million to development and testing of the turbines.

Vergnet SA has been in Canada since 1997, when it joined forces with Ontario's Wenvor Technologies to adapt its 25 kW turbine, and make the machine locally. Vergnet Canada, a partnership between Wenvor-Vergnet Canada Inc and Vergnet SA, was incorporated in July 2001.

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