This "Small Wind 101" section provides a general overview of small wind turbines and covers the following areas:
Before continuing, it is important to note the differences between large and small wind energy systems... see below.
Large & Small Wind Energy
Small wind turbines are very different than large wind turbines. Large turbines, often grouped in wind farms, are widely used by utilities across Canada to provide grid electricity. Although small wind turbines may look like "miniature" versions of these large turbines, they are actually very different. Compared to large wind, small wind involves different:
- Purchase decisions. The decision to install a large wind turbine is largely based on financial considerations such as return on investment and payback. In contrast, the decision to install a small wind turbine can be based on a wide variety of factors including energy independence, energy price stability and a desire to make a personal or corporate contribution to a cleaner environment. These "soft" components do not have a numerical value that figures into typical cost payback calculations.
- Value of generated electricity. "Large wind" generates electricity at the wholesale price while small wind systems offset utility supplied electricity at the retail price level. Note that in certain cases, small wind can produce power at less than half the cost of "traditional" electricity sources (e.g. northern or remote communities with diesel electric generators).
- Technology. Small wind turbines involve different materials and technologies, including the mechanisms for transferring energy.
- Installation requirement. Small wind installations involve different by-laws, tax treatment and local installation requirements than large wind. There are also differences in terms of the requirements for wind studies and environmental assessments.
Detailed information on large wind turbines can be found on the main CanWEA site.