Turbine manufacturers couldn't say if ice would form on the blades, and one model shut down during bursts of gusty wind above 28 miles per hour. An ideal range for generating small wind power is 20 to 25 miles per hour, Rabkin explained.
"It has helped a lot of people understand that you need to know a lot about your turbine and the wind at your particular location before you can make any determination about how much electrical energy you're likely to get," he said.
Small Wind Part of Reno's Renewables Mix
In Reno, Geddes said that officials and residents had a "great interest in breaking down the barriers" to small wind as part of a larger effort to boosting its renewable energy profile.
The municipal government expects to get 15 to 20 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and geothermal energy by mid-2012. Efficiency measures are on track to help reduce municipal energy consumption by 30 percent next year, saving about $1 million in annual costs, Geddes said.
The city is also likely to meet its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2012 from 2003 levels.
To launch the small wind program, Reno used nearly of city grant money to purchase and install the turbines, plus an additional $550,000 to develop and run the three-dimensional wind map.
The funds are part of the $2.1 million in awarded to Reno by the U.S. using 2009 federal stimulus funds. Nationwide, funding for the EECBG program totaled $3.2 billion that year.
An additional 27 privately owned small turbines are already up in Reno at commercial buildings, homes and several school districts.
"We are being a leader so that we can stand up, show people what could be done and get others in our region and state to follow," Geddes said.
In 2008, Reno's Washoe County became the first in Nevada to pass ordinances for local wind development and to update its planning codes. Nevada is now one of nine states with legislation in place to streamline the permitting process.
Utility Offers Up to $4-Per-Watt Rebate
State utility also offers $3-per-watt and $4-per-watt rebates for customers with wind installations. Landowners can receive property tax exemptions for installing or hosting wind, solar, geothermal or hydroelectric systems.
Nevada law prohibits towns from banning wind installations, although some municipalities have passed restrictive ordinances making it impractical to set up large turbines, Geddes said.
The official said that if a surge in small wind power were to follow the turbine testing program and wind resources initiative, the city power grid could handle the extra wind power for at least the next decade.
More small turbines could be added to the nine-turbine project in the future, and some residents have offered to tie in their personal turbines to the study, he said.
"It's a great public outreach program," Geddes explained. "Everyone can see it and touch it."