Distributed wind generation could be an important part of the nation's transition to a lower-carbon future based on the results of the RADWIND project, which wrapped up this spring.

“There's room for this technology to grow," says Michael Leitman, the project lead and NRECA's director for system optimization. “The U.S. Department of Energy has identified a lot of potential on rural distribution grids for wind deployments that are economically competitive."

RADWIND, which stands for “Rural Area Distributed Wind Integration Network Development," was supported by a U.S. Department of Energy grant and has the goal of understanding and reducing technical barriers to adoption of distributed wind technology by rural utilities.

Nine electric cooperatives were profiled in wind generation case studies as part of RADWIND, while eight served on an advisory group, Leitman says. Overall, more than 20 co-ops and other rural utilities have participated in the project.

RADWIND found opportunities for distributed wind both behind and in front of the meter, citing successful examples of both. These include industrial behind-the-meter turbines, such as a Honda plant in Russell, Ohio, that has two 1.7 MW turbines on site, and distribution co-ops operating wind turbines, such as Lake Region Electric Cooperative in Pelican Rapids, Minn., which purchases the output from a 2.3 MW GE wind turbine.

Lake Region's turbine is part of a hybrid generation project that combines wind with 500 kW of solar. Wind and solar tend to be complimentary, with wind often stronger after the sun sets, and in the seasons when the sun shines less frequently. But Leitman notes further opportunities exist.

“There's significant potential for hybridization," he says, including systems that include not only wind and solar, but wind, solar and battery.

The financial attractiveness of distributed wind, Leitman adds, has been helped by federal tax credits now available. Combined with the findings from RADWIND, he says, the credits mean there's clearly “a place for local wind resources" as part of the portfolio for electric co-ops and other rural utilities.

For more information on RADWIND, visit cooperative.com/radwind.