The Interstate Turbine Advisory Council (ITAC) does not test or certify wind turbines. As of January 1, 2013, ITAC will require full certification to AWEA 9.1, the designated U.S. small wind turbine standard. In the meantime, ITAC will consider applications for small turbines that have completed testing or that are currently under test, and that can submit third-party power curve certification.  Applicants must demonstrate progress towards complete certification by January 1, 2013.  Turbines with SWCC Conditional Temporary Certification are required to achieve full certification to the AWEA 9.1 standard within the allowed SWCC time frame.  Turbines certified under the UK’s Microgeneration Certification Scheme are required to have their certification confirmed by an independent, accredited certification body and must disclose testing reports.

What is Certification?

Certification is obtained by a wind turbine manufacturer to demonstrate that a wind system meets specified standards for key features, such as electrical safety, design, power performance, noise emissions, and structural integrity.

Certification is not a warranty, but it does provide proof that a particular wind turbine model has been:

  • Tested, and the test results have been evaluated by an independent, third-party organization
  • Examined by a certification agent to ensure compliance with approved standards for durability, power performance, structural integrity, acoustic emissions, loads, power quality, safety and/or other characteristics

Certification is a major step to providing public clean energy funds, other incentive providers, businesses, and private individuals who plan to purchase a wind turbine, with assurances that the investment they are making is a wise and safe one.

Standards for Small Turbines

For small wind turbines, which are defined as turbines with a rotor swept area of 200m2 or less, the standard used in the United States is called the American Wind Energy Association Small Wind Turbine Performance Standard (AWEA 9.1 – 2009). This standard was created by the small wind turbine industry, scientists, state officials, and consumers to provide consumers with realistic and comparable performance ratings and an assurance the small wind turbine products certified to this standard have been engineered to meet carefully considered standards for safety and operation. The goal of the standard is to provide consumers with a measure of confidence in the quality of small wind turbine products meeting this standard and an improved basis for comparing the performance of competing products. 

In the United States, there are currently two independent organizations that certify turbines to AWEA 9.1-2009: the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) and Intertek. On their individual websites you can see the turbines that they have certified, as well as turbines that have contracted for certification. 

Standards for Mid-sized Turbines

For turbines that exceed the size definition of the AWEA 9.1 - 2009 standard (in having a rotor swept area greater than 200m2), there is no American standard that can be applied. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has a collection of standards for wind turbines, called the IEC 61400 class. However, IEC 61400 includes over a dozen sections (called type certifications) covering everything from blade design to power performance to lightning protection. All but one of these section were developed for large, utility-scale equipment. The extremely high cost of designing, testing and certifying mid-sized turbines to all parts of the rigorous IEC standard seems an unreasonable and unrealistic requirement for the mid-sized market.

With the full set of IEC standards setting the bar too high, and AWEA 9.1-2009 applying to only small turbines, these machines fall between the cracks. They still need to be evaluated to ensure the systems will operate reliably for their full life expectancy, but an approach has yet to be developed.

ITAC: Going beyond certification

In 2009, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) created the Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard (AWEA Standard 9.1 – 2009) for wind turbines having a rotor swept area of 200 m2 or less. This standard, and the certification scheme associated with it, provides a pathway for small wind turbines to obtain third-party product certification. The formation of AWEA 9.1-2009 was a critical step in demonstrating to the public the reliability, safety and performance capability of small wind. However, certification has limitations for clean energy programs. 
Certification looks at a snap-shot in time and the performance of an individual test turbine at a single site. Certification does not consider a product’s operational history, customer and warrantee service record, or dealer support. 
The AWEA standard also only applies to small wind turbines. For turbines with rotor swept areas greater than 200 m2, there is no appropriate or reasonable standard to apply. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has standards for wind turbines, but these were developed for large, utility-scale equipment. The result is that mid-sized wind turbines fall between the cracks of the AWEA and IEC standards, with no clear path for evaluation.
Most importantly, certification in all forms is focused on engineering and design. It is limited to verifying and reporting the characteristics of a turbine. There is no assessment of a turbine’s suitability for particular applications, nor any judgment of whether the test results are exceptional or poor. Therefore, while a certified turbine is better than an uncertified one, certification does not guarantee that a wind turbine will meet the long-term expectations of an incentive provider. 

Certification is a critical step to increase consumer confidence in small wind technology and provide the consistency that public clean energy programs are seeking. However, many incentive programs are looking to go beyond certification in evaluating turbines.

Certification verifies and reports the engineering, acoustic, and power performance characteristics of a wind turbine. It does not examine the operational history, consumer and dealer experiences with the manufacturer, or the duration and quality of the warranty. Any of these elements may have great bearing on a system’s suitability for funding through clean energy programs. Recently, incentive programs have been plagued by projects experiencing non-technical problems due to inadequate warranties and poor service. Thus, while a certified turbine is better than an uncertified one, certification is no guarantee that a turbine will meet the expectations of incentive providers.

Another barrier for clean energy programs is that the American standard for small wind turbines, AWEA 9.1-2009, only applies to a part of the small wind market. For turbines with rotor swept areas greater than 200 m2 (the upper limit of AWEA9.1-2009), there is no appropriate or reasonable set of standards to apply. These midsized machines fall between the cracks and need additional evaluation.

Many clean energy programs are keen to support projects of this size. Mid-sized wind projects can access better wind speeds due to their taller towers, typically resulting in better overall performance for a lower dollar per MW investment. This makes them an important piece of a cost-effective wind program’s portfolio. Due to their high production capability, midsized turbines are usually eligible for much higher incentives reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. With this comes an even greater need for scrutiny to ensure the systems will operate reliably for their full life expectancy.

For all these reasons, ITAC was created to facilitate a more efficient and effective evaluation process that can build on and supplement existing certification schemes. By pooling resources and expertise from multiple states, ITAC can support certification and strengthen the market for small and midsized wind turbines.