By MICK SAGRILLO March 2, 2014
The Small Wind Conference (SWC) is the not-to-be-missed event of the year. At this year’s conference, slated for June 17 and 18, attendees will celebrate the tenth year of this small wind extravaganza.
SWC had its genesis more than a decade ago when a group of small wind activists and installers decided that, if there was going to be a conference to address their issues, they would have to put it together.
With generous funding from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy, SWC grew from 40 participants its first year to well over 300 participants as the conference matured. SWC has drawn attendees, presenters, and exhibitors from all seven continents.
While SWC focuses on the interests of installers and site assessors, presenters include manufacturers, supply chain vendors, insurance and financial interests, government agencies and public benefits programs managers, permitting authorities, educators and renewable energy advocates. Presentations are selected if they are “experience-based” and offer viable solutions for problems the small wind industry faces.
SWC also features an exhibition of turbine manufacturers and supply chain vendors, but only those with a proven track record. While other conferences often allow anyone to exhibit, at SWC you won’t find any fantasy wind turbines or “technology breakthroughs,” just solid hardware and products that work, from companies that will be in business for the long haul.
One outcome of SWC was the genesis of the Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA), the policy and advocacy organization for the distributed wind industry. In addition to federal and state policy development, DWEA (http://distributedwind.org/) works to eliminate barriers to the deployment of distributed wind.
Another outcome was the creation of the Interstate Turbine Advisory Council (ITAC), “an alliance of clean energy programs and utility incentive providers working jointly to tackle the challenges and promote the potential of the small and mid-scale wind market.” ITAC publishes the unified list of turbines (http://www.cleanenergystates.org/projects/ITAC/itac-unified-list-of-wind-turbines/) that meet the performance, service, and warranty expectations of public benefits and utility incentive program providers as a means of separating wind turbines and manufacturers that work from those that aren’t there yet.
This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Dennis Scanlin of Appalachian State University. Dennis is founder of the ASU Appropriate Technology Program, which he has coordinated for 28 years. Dennis is also the co-founder of the Sustainable Development Program, and directs the North Carolina Wind Center as well as the Small Wind Research and Demonstration Facility on Beech Mountain.
While SWC focuses on presentations, workshops and meetings, three evening socials for networking, unwinding and fun are also on the agenda. The most popular of these is the Opening Exhibitors Reception on Monday evening, where, after being sufficiently lubricated and fed, attendees participate in the evening’s entertainment. Activities involve teams competing against each other with inexpensive materials (straws, string, tape, marshmallows, toothpicks, and to like) to create and “prove” themselves and their technology. Past years activities featured:
• Designing and crafting wind turbine blades that were then tested in a wind tunnel for performance, durability and reliability.
• Creating a technology-breakthrough wind turbine, then presenting the invention in a mock commercial.
• Building a tower out of spaghetti that was subjected to various wind speeds for survivability.
Hilarity invariably ensues.
SWC also features an awards ceremony to recognize those who have made outstanding contributions to the small wind industry. Last year’s awardees were author Paul Gipe from Bakersfield, Calf., for Lifetime Achievement; Megan Amsler, Executive Director of Cape Wind Self Reliance, for Small Wind Advocate of the Year; and Roger Dixon, Skylands Renewable Energy of N.J, for Small Wind Installer of the Year.
Preceding and after the SWC are workshops and side meetings, including:
• Small Wind Certification Council Board of Directors
• Interstate Turbine Advisory Council
• Distributed Wind Energy Association Annual Member Meeting
• Regional Wind Deployment Resource Centers
• Women of Wind Energy Breakfast
Check the Small Wind Conference website for updates as well as registration, exhibitor and sponsorship information.
After the SWC, all are welcome at the 25th annual Energy Fair, hosted the Midwest Renewable Energy Association in nearby Custer, Wisc. on June 20-22, the largest and longest-running renewable event in the United States.