Leasing to Spur Growth in Small and Medium-Sized Wind Turbines

Can wind power gain the popularity of rooftop solar? A Brooklyn start-up is betting it can with the leasing of turbines, particularly to farmers and rural residents.
December 22, 2015, 10am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"(A) start-up called United Wind is applying the rooftop solar model to wind, installing and maintaining systems at little to no upfront cost to the customer," writes Diane Cardwell, a Business Day reporter for The New York Times covering energy.

As with the solar systems from companies like SolarCity and Sunrun, customers sign long-term agreements to buy the electricity the systems produce at prices set below those from their local utility.

Most of the company’s customers, including the [farmers in Tully (Onondaga County), N.Y) described in the onset of the article], are in rural areas like central and western New York, but the the firm is rapidly expanding its reach.

These are not industrial size turbines. They are small and medium-size wind turbines defined as anything under 500 kilowatts.

Their spread has been slow, although there are signs that may be changing [...] in part spurred by the development of the lease model. Still, the United States is expected to remain far behind leaders like Britain, China and Italy, with only $216 million in revenue by 2023.

United Wind received $13.5 million in October from the NY Green Bank, a state-sponsored investment fund, adds Cardwell.

"In December 2013, New York launched its first-ever 'green bank,' an am­bi­tious state-run $1 bil­lion in­vest­ment fund meant to help fin­ance the kinds of loc­al en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency and clean-en­ergy pro­jects that big­ger fin­an­cial in­sti­tu­tions typ­ic­ally over­look," wrote Nancy Cook for National Journal.

With President Obama's signing of the Omnibus Spending Bill and accompanying package of tax credits on Friday, medium-size wind turbine leases might increase as the production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy was extended for five years (along with the lifting of the crude oil export ban).

The PTC could help for projects that produce over 250 kW, per Windustry, an industry-support group.

Cardwell writes here on the uneven effect of the extension of many types of renewable energy credits enabled by the Omnibus bill.

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Published on Saturday, December 19, 2015 in The New York Times - Energy & Environment
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