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SWTs play an important role in off-grid projects, where in windy locations they can provide a relatively economical power supply, since alternatives such as diesel generators have high fuel costs when used for continuous power supply. This can also be true for grid-connected installations, despite the fact that their production cost per kWh is often higher than that of large wind turbines.
Internationally accepted IEC standards (IEC61400) relevant to the small wind turbine industry already exist, but are not much used in practice. Some effort is required to develop the existing standards for SWTs, in order to increase their use. For instance, the IEC 61400-2 standard 'Design requirements for small wind turbines', which applies to wind turbines with a rotor swept area smaller than 200m2 and generating at a voltage below 1,000 Vac, (Volts Alternating Current) is difficult and costly to apply; this standard is under revision in order to cope with these obstacles. Finally, when the intent of including noise measurements in the standard rating system is laudable, the test procedure outlined is imperfect.
All components of SWTs - blades, generators, regulation systems, power converters and so on - could be improved.
New designs for integration in the urban environment should be efficient and aesthetic. It goes without saying that they must be extremely quiet and robust.
The market for SWTs is promising. There are increasing numbers of SWT manufacturers all over the world, and even manufacturers of large wind turbines are beginning to assess this sector, attracted by the emerging possibilities of this new market.
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