Spotlight on Small Wind: A staple of solar, leasing comes to distributed wind

21 August 2013 by Carl Levesque Carl Levesque

Two of the challenges of distributed wind deployment are the initial capital costs and the associated risk the owner incurs when purchasing and installing a turbine. Certainly, the payback might be well worth the investment down the road, but installing a distributed wind turbine can be capital intensive from the perspective of an individual or small entity.

Under a new model introduced by one company, cost and risk have been nixed from the equation. Early this summer, United Wind announced it will introduce WindLease, a wind turbine leasing program for agricultural, commercial, school, and some residential customers. The company unveiled the offering at the Small Wind Installers Conference 2013 in Stevens Point, Wis., in June.

The concept of leasing is not new to distributed renewable energy. In fact, it’s been a staple in solar energy for years and has been a leading market driver for that industry. But the application to wind is not necessarily an automatic. Most importantly, unlike with solar, the wind resource must be carefully measured prior to deployment in order to ensure that a given site will be cost effective. A leasing company might not be willing to shoulder the risk if there’s any uncertainty over the quality of the wind resource.

United Wind believes it’s solved that issue. The company is the product of a merger between two top industry players, Wind Analytics and Talco. Wind Analytics is the developer of top-tier wind analysis and financial modeling software designed for distributed-scale wind turbine projects. The software is capable of accurately, quickly, and remotely estimating distributed-scale wind turbine energy production and financial benefits for a given site.

One of United Wind’s core competencies, therefore, is wind resource assessment. That allows the company to make a sound decision for both itself and the property owner.

Talco, meanwhile, provides the business network muscle to make United Wind a major player. Prior to becoming part of United Wind, Talco grew to become a leading distributed-scale wind turbine distributor in the U.S., with a network of more than 100 dealers nationwide, as well as over 150 installations.

United Wind’s business model narrows the target customer somewhat, focusing on the 10-kW and above market. That means the product will appeal to commercial, small industrial, agricultural, and large residential customers as well as schools.

"With WindLease, property owners can begin generating affordable, clean renewable energy with little to no money down,” said Russell Tencer, co-founder and CEO. “United Wind handles all aspects of each installation including financing, permitting, and installation of the turbines, making it easier than ever to save money by utilizing wind energy."

Carl Levesque is a clean energy communications consultant with AWEA.

Photo credit: Northern Power Systems

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