Small-Scale Power Systems
Small electric wind turbines for residential or small commercial use have been available for more than three decades. The current technology is highly reliable and converts wind energy into electricity efficiently. Wind turbines for a residential applications typically range in electrical output capacity from 500 watts up to 10 kilowatts. These systems are mounted on towers. Tower heights are generally between 60 and 100 feet off the ground, preferably at least 30 feet above any obstructions within a 300 feet radius. The wind turbines have blades or rotors, up to about 20 feet in diameter.
Remote home wind systems, where there is no utility electric power supply, typically use batteries to store electricity for periods of low or no wind. Where there is access to utility power and the wind system generates more power than can be used on-site, the owner is able to sell the excess generation to the local utility under a "net-metering" agreement.
This incentive can provide up to $6,000 in income tax credits.
Financing wind energy systems in Oregon can be accomplished using the Small Scale Energy Loan Program
. Fixed rate, fixed term financing can be arranged for businesses and individuals installing projects that pose conventional loan risks.
Customers of PGE, Pacific Power or NW Natural may contact the Energy Trust of Oregon.
Equipment and Contractors
When selecting equipment, make certain that you choose the correct size or capacity wind turbine depends on the data collected at your site and the performance characteristics of that wind turbine in those conditions. Equipment manufacturers can best help you select equipment if you have accurate data. Contact manufacturers before you begin collecting wind data so that you collect the right data in the right way.
When you select a supplier or contractor make sure they are registered and licensed to do the installation in Oregon. Ask them what permits they will apply for on your behalf and what codes and standards they will comply with. Ask them about the relationship they will have with the electric distribution or transmission utility. Find out how much experience they have had with installations that are similar to yours. Determine if they have a performance bond for their work. Ask for and check out references of customers who were both satisfied and dissatisfied.
For development of commercial wind farm projects see the section below on commercial wind resource development.
Land use permits are required before installing towers and wind turbines in Oregon. Contact county and local government planning and construction permitting agencies. Do this early on in the process to determine what land use and construction permits you will need for your site and how long those processes take.
You will need electrical building permits. If your system is connected to the utility power grid, you will have to identify the terms and conditions of connecting to your utility's service. Those terms and conditions should cover both installing and connecting your turbine as well as the terms and conditions of any exchange or purchase of power from your wind resource.
The American Wind Energy Association web page
provides technical advice on the applicable electrical codes and conditions of most utility agreements. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 1741 listed inverters are designed to assure maximum safety for utility workers.
Net Metering for Small Facilities
In Oregon, your electric distribution utility is obligated to provide a net-metering agreement for wind energy systems of 25-kilowatts capacity or less. That means that they will agree to exchange any excess power generated by your resource. Ask your electric distribution utility to describe your rights and the conditions of that relationship.
For commercial installations in PGE, PacificCorp and Idaho Powers service area, the maximum capacity is 2MW.
Matching the Resource to the Need
We tend to need electricity most during the daytime. Seasonally we need electricity most during either the coldest or hottest months. If wind blows strongly when you need electricity most (or year-round), then you have a good match between the wind energy and your need for electricity (load). If you do not have need for electricity when the wind blows, the power generated by a wind system can be stored in a batteries or sent to the power grid through a net-metering agreement with your electric utility.
Working with Commercial Developers
A survey of wind projects across the nation identified key characteristics of success in dealing with commercial wind energy developers. Landowners should:
Be informed about technology, developers and your site's wind resource.
Keep control of the recorded wind data on your property. Reliable wind data is a great bargaining chip with developers. Don't give it away.
Network with other landowners or turbine farm hosts. If the wind resource is commercially valuable, learn what the fair market value is and how to find highest bidders. And remember, a contract is NOT confidential until you sign that contract. so, share with your neighbors, discuss the details, before signing such a contracts".
Here are some of the questions that owners of windy land should ask themselves and a prospective developer:
How much land will be tied up and for how long?
How much will the developer pay and how will the payments be made?
Are the proposed payments adequate now and will they be adequate in the future based on what a landowner may be sacrificing?
If a lump-sum payment is being offered for long-term rights, is it adequate?
Does the proposed method of payment or the easement itself present any adverse tax consequences for the landowner?
Does the developer have firm plans to develop the land, or is the developer just trying to tie it up?
Is the developer willing to guarantee a minimum payment to build a specific number of wind energy turbines by a date certain?
If payments are to be based on revenues generated by the wind energy turbines, how much information is the developer willing to disclose about determining the owner’s share?
What easement rights can the developer later sell or transfer without the landowner's consent, and how might such a transfer or sale affect the landowner?
Will the original developer still be liable if the new developer or owner of the easement rights defaults?
What are the developer’s termination rights? Can the developer simply terminate the easement at any time, and, if so, how does that affect future payments?
What are the landowner's termination rights and are they easily exercised?
If the easement is terminated either voluntarily or involuntarily, what happens to the wind energy structures and related facilities? Is the developer required to remove everything, including underground cables and foundations, and, if so, how soon and at whose cost?
What are the relationships with power purchasers or transmission utilities that need to be negotiated and in place?
Recent wind projects in Eastern Washington for landowners have leases with landowners of between $1500 and $5000 per turbine per year. However, this value may change in the future.
Another compensation option for the landowner is to receive royalty payments based on a percentage of gross revenues from the energy sales of the turbines located on their property. For example, a royalty might amount to 2 percent of revenues over the first seven years of production, escalating to 4 percent over the next 15 years. In cases of royalty payments, make sure there are provisions for a guaranteed minimum payment per year. It is extremely important to hire a lawyer with experience in these type of contracts before you sign any agreement.