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DoE launches online tools to aid distributed wind power

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has launched two online tools to assist state and local policymakers, consumers, and stakeholders in evaluating siting and policy issues to help accelerate the use of distributed wind energy systems.

By Kari Williamson

DoE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy funded the development of the Distributed Wind Site Analysis Tool and Distributed Wind Policy Comparison Tool through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants.

It is hoped that the two online tools will help lower barriers to distributed wind energy deployment, identified in DoE's 2008 report, 20% Wind Energy by 2030. The report identifies site-specific factors such as zoning and permitting costs, interconnection fees, shipping, and other related costs as significant factors in the costs of distributed wind systems.

The Distributed Wind Site Analysis Tool, developed by the Cadmus Group, Inc., allows users to input location and terrain information about a potential wind system site in the United States and predict the energy output and environmental benefits of that site.

The tool is designed to help potential wind energy system consumers choose the most effective site for their wind energy project. The standard version of the tool was developed in partnership with DoE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Encraft, and is free to site visitors. A version with more advanced features is available for an annual subscription fee.

The Distributed Wind Policy Comparison Tool, developed by eFormative Options, LLC, provides practical information for policymakers about potential state and local government policy options – including rebates, tax incentives, and ways of overcoming zoning and interconnection hurdles – to encourage rapid deployment of distributed wind energy systems.

The tool allows sensitivity analyses to be conducted on various policy options and assumptions. These analyses model the impacts of policies and incentives and identify combinations of policies that may help guide efficient use of public and ratepayer funds. This tool was developed in collaboration with NREL, DoE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the North Carolina Solar Center, and is free to site visitors.

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