Solar seems to get most of the headlines these days, but wind remains an important and growing renewable energy resource across much of electric cooperative territory. While most wind capacity is at large generation-scale “farms,” smaller wind projects on the distribution side of the grid are proliferating. These can range from a few kilowatts to several megawatts and present unique own challenges involving multiple variables and scenarios.
NRECA’s newly released Distributed Wind Toolkit provides resources to break these challenges down into manageable steps.
“It’s designed to help our co-op members who want to deploy wind as a distributed resource or support their members in doing so,” says Michael Leitman, NRECA director of system optimization. “It takes you through five steps, sequential modules, intended to help someone think through the process.”
The toolkit was developed as part of the Rural Area Distributed Wind Integration Network Development (RADWIND) project, supported by a U.S. Department of Energy grant. RADWIND’s goal is to understand and reduce the technical risks and other barriers to the adoption of distributed wind technology by electric cooperatives and other rural utilities.
The first module of the toolkit addresses the fundamental question: “Would distributed wind work for us?” It includes examples of success stories that look at projects of different sizes, both in front of and behind the meter, involving co-op-owned or -contracted projects and those by their members.
The second module, “What would it look like here?” provides information to help a co-op identify the critical drivers and objectives of a distributed wind project, including educating members and responding to their interest in wind’s potential.
Other modules are still being built but will help a co-op put together a business plan for distributed wind, site and build a wind project and tackle maintenance and other operational issues.
Depending on its experience with wind generation, Leitman says, a co-op may not need all the modules. But the toolkit can still serve as a valuable resource for co-ops that have members considering wind generation, he notes, providing “a place they can go and get information to support their members in a trusted advisory role.”