The small wind turbine industry is maturing, signaled by the expanded role of small wind turbine certification, the existence of hundreds of manufacturers located around the world, the expansion of dealer networks, and the growing number of national and regional industry associations.
The number of applications is also growing, including applications in telecommunications, defense, and other sectors that involve producing power in remote locations. According to a new report from Navigant Research, annual global installations of small wind turbines will roughly double in the next five years, growing from 86 MW in 2012 to 172 MW in 2018 and representing $3.3 billion in revenues.
"While the U.S. market for small wind turbines tries to regain momentum following the reduction or expiration of rebates and other key incentive programs in leading states, the overall market for SWTs is growing as a result of Feed-in Tariff (FIT) policies in the United Kingdom and Italy," says Dexter Gauntlett, research analyst with Navigant Research. "Beyond FITs, the small wind power market will be driven by growing demand for onsite generation, volatile diesel fuel costs, and China's growing need for power."
At the same time, small wind faces a strong challenge from the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector, which has seen dramatic price drops in solar PV modules over the past few years as well as the emergence of innovative business models — including leasing programs and third party financing models — that have yet to be made available to the vast majority of small wind customers. Wind still offers unique advantages, however, and the growth of solar PV has, in some regards, paved the way for SWTs.