With capacity of 100 kilowatts or less, micro wind turbines are akin to the windmills of yore—standing solo in a cornfield, capturing the wind’s kinetic energy to meet the electricity needs of a family or small farm. Today, they are often used to pump water, charge batteries, and provide electrification in rural locations, all without producing greenhouse gases.
Experts estimate that a million or more micro wind turbines are currently in use around the world. The key factor for growing that number is cost. Currently, the price per kilowatt of small-scale wind is much higher than that of utility-scale turbines, and payback periods can be long, in part because they are installed individually.
In lower-income countries, micro wind turbines can help expand access to electricity, giving people a way to light their homes or cook their evening meals, which can avoid emissions from dirty diesel generators or kerosene lamps.
Micro turbines can also be placed on large structures, such as skyscrapers, to take advantage of stronger, steadier breezes. The Eiffel Tower now sports vertical axis turbines that produce electricity for use on site.
100 kilowatts or less: American Wind Energy Association. AWEA Small Wind Turbine Global Market Study: Year Ending 2009, 2010.
1.1 billion people [without] electricity: IEA and World Bank. Sustainable Energy for All 2015—Progress Toward Sustainable Energy. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2015.
installed with a diesel generator: Rolland, S., and B. Auzane. “The Potential of Small and Medium Wind Energy in Developing Countries: A Guide for Energy Sector Decision-Makers.” Alliance for Rural Electrification—Position Paper. 2012.
micro wind turbines…in use: Pitteloud, Jean-Daniel, and Stefan Gsänger. 2016 Small Wind World Report. Bonn: World Wind Energy Association, 2016.
Eiffel Tower…vertical axis turbines: Murray, James. “Eiffel Tower Embraces Wind Power.” The Guardian. February 25, 2015.