In terms of installed capacity of wind power turbines and their intended use, the wind energy industry can be divided into two classes: small wind energy (aimed primarily at ensuring the needs of small domestic consumption of households) and industrial one.
The exact definition of “small wind energy” has not been formed, and the limit values for the capacity of “small turbines” have not been established. This is due to different consumption patterns in different regions of the world. For example, if an average European family for their everyday needs consumes more electricity than an Asian family, but less than an American family, then the capacity of "small turbines” will be estimated accordingly.
For small household needs, wind turbines with the installed capacity from 200 W are used, and in case with the farms, the capacity can reach 300 kW. So today, manufacturers of small wind turbines are focused on medium capacity range from 10 to 100 kW.
Historically, there is a steady increase in household electricity needs. The list of target use of small wind energy also expands: now it is not only the provision of household appliances and lighting, but also irrigation systems, pumping stations, fire and security systems, etc.
Production of turbines for small wind power is concentrated in a few regions of the world: in China, in North America and in several European countries. Developing countries continue to take up a small share of the market.
According to the World Wind Energy Association “WWEA” (“Final Report on Small Wind Energy 2015”), manufacturers of wind turbines for small wind power from 5 countries (Canada, China, Germany, the UK and the US) are responsible for 50% of the market.
This production provides a range of related services: delivery of parts and batteries, design, consulting and distribution services.
Many countries use flexible incentive schemes for renewable energy use (reduced tariffs, the repayment of “green certificates” for the electricity from RES, tax exemptions, subsidies, grants, etc.), and together with turbine manufacturers conduct narrowly focused educational programmes and inform the target groups. For example, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) in its quest to the development of small wind energy has released “Guidelines for the purchase of small wind power turbines” (Small Wind Turbine Purchasing Guide), where it highlights the topic of small wind energy in details, helps to determine the installed capacity of the turbine required by a customer, explains the steps of choosing an appropriate area, obtaining the necessary documents, installations, particularities of operation and maintenance.
The current situation indicates that the global market of small wind energy is still at an early stage of development. According to WWEA, the projected global growth of small wind energy sector from 2015 will be about 125 MW a year.
WWEA predicts the development of small wind energy up to 2020 as follows:
Increased demand for electricity supply of the territories remote from the grid and technological advances of small wind energy will continue to stimulate the development of independent power supply.