United Wind is hoping to do for small-scale wind what third-party installers already have done for solar.
The Brooklyn, New York, company has raised $200 million in equity funding that will allow it to expand into markets beyond New York, offering rural customers 20-year leases on wind turbines rated at 100 kilowatts or less. That kind of output may be tiny in comparison with the megawatt-sized turbines in utility-sized wind farms, but it’s enough to provide a competitive alternative to grid electricity, according to an article posted at Greentech Media.
Leased wind turbines often lower monthly electric bills by about 20% over the life of the lease, Greentech Media said.
The business model has been a huge success for solar installers such as SolarCity, extending the reach of distributed solar far beyond what it would have been with homeowner-owned systems alone. Homeowners get up and running with little or no upfront costs.
Sticking to rural markets
United Wind customers are people like Ed, Kevin, and Rich Doody, dairy farmers in central New York who installed turbines not only at their dairy barn but also at their own houses and saw electricity bills drop essentially to zero, according to an article in The New York Times.
Because the turbines are relatively small, they don’t generate the kind of opposition that utility-scale wind farms with turbines hundreds of feet high often do.
So far, United Wind’s customer base has been mostly in central and western New York, but the new funding will allow the firm to push into the Midwest and finance an additional 1,000 projects.
“The small-wind market was small — it hadn’t really taken off the way solar had,” Russell Tencer, United’s chief executive, who founded the site-assessment company, Wind Analytics, in 2009, told The Times. “What we realized was that with that intelligence and software we could offer that same type of one-stop-shop solution that solar has packaged to finance solar.”
According to the Greentech Media report, United estimates the U.S. market for distributed wind energy is $25 billion.
In the three years since United Wind was launched, the cost of a 10 kW project has dropped from $10 to $6 per watt; the average cost of a 50 kW system is closer to $3 per watt.
Greentech Media says United Wind has more than 150 signed leases in New York and Colorado, and has just opened an office in Kansas.