Vashon wind power firm gets federal grant

A wind energy consulting firm on Vashon Island has received a $200,000 federal grant to determine what kinds of government policies and incentives are needed to advance small-scale, on-site wind generation across the country.

The grant, part of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus program, was one of 53 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to address wind power development challenges identified in the agency’s “20% Wind Energy by 2030” report.

Heather Rhoads-Weaver, founder of the Vashon-based eFormative Options, said the grant will enable her to develop a Web-based analytic tool and guidebook to help utilities and policy makers promote on-site wind generation — turbines at a home, farm or even a parking lot, where such energy could make electric vehicles more viable.

The development of small-scale wind projects is garnering interest, she said. Such projects don’t have the visual impact of large wind farms, she said. It’s also a return to the past; the first wind power came from windmills on farms. What’s more, there’s a strong federal tax credit program in place to encourage wind generation, she noted.

Policy makers, however, have little information about how to encourage small projects; most of the policies — such as rebates and tax incentives — have either supported large wind projects or hindered small wind energy ventures. Rhoads-Weaver said her undertaking will provide the roadmap local jurisdictions and utilities need to promote the development of small-scale wind projects.

“Our own state is a good example of various policies working against each other,” Rhoads-Weaver said. “While Washington’s production payment for small-scale renewables has successfully ramped up solar installations, the local small wind market is still bogged down by permitting obstacles.”

Rhoads-Weaver said she was pleased to win the grant, in part because it will give her the opportunity to partner with other leaders in renewable energy. Vashon-based Artisan Electric will also be a part of eFormative Option’s team. “It’s very exciting,” she said.

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