Pint-size windmills could become a big source of power

A surge in demand for small wind-power systems is likely to build mightily over the next three years, according to a report released Wednesday by alternative energy research company Pike Research. Larger government subsidies, rising electricity costs, fewer regulatory burdens and lower prices for these small systems are all converging to generate demand.

According to Pike Research principal Clint Wheelock, small wind systems will generate roughly 38 megawatts of power in the U.S. this year, or less than one-quarter of what a standard coal-fired powerplant delivers on a regular basis. That should grow by 25% each year and hit a total of 115 megawatts in 2013, says Wheelock.