It’s WindMade, But Does Anybody Care?

What’s to dislike about WindMade? Nothing. It would be great to see it succeed. But so far, you’ve got to wonder if it’s making any difference. (And if you’re asking, “What’s WindMade?” well, that’s exactly my point.)

The two-year-old program, hatched by Vestas and backed by WWF, identifies companies that run substantially on wind energy – theoretically giving the companies the props they’ve earned and green-leaning customers information they can factor into their buying decisions. But on Tuesday, WindMade said it would expand to include a “wide variety of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as hydro power and biomass from approved certification schemes.”

WindMade

image via WindMade

The organization said its new label, to be released sometime in 2013, will “build on the success of WindMade,” but opening it up to other renewables sure looks like a bid – and a wise one – to raise the profile of a certification that has been practically invisible.

From the WindMade website, it appears that fewer than a dozen companies have adopted the WindMade label. If WindMade’s organizers had visions of a LEED-style market impact dancing in their head, that hasn’t come to pass. Even the companies on board don’t seem to be doing much with WindMade.

There are plenty of words, pictures, buttons, logos and more on backer Bloomberg’s homepage, for instance, yet no sign of that pretty WindMade swirly thing. The Motorola site is less busy, but no WindMade seal can be found there, either. Nor will you find it if you drill down to Motorola’s “Corporate Responsbility” page – or even further down on their “Environment” page or even further down on to “Energy and Climate Change.”

In its Tuesday announcement, WindMade cited a survey that showed “92 percent of consumers believe that renewable energy is a good solution to mitigating climate change, and if presented with a choice, most of them would prefer products made with renewable energy, even at a premium.”

That sounds plausible – but people won’t even begin to take the certification seriously until they start seeing it, and not just one Web background pages, but on products, at the point of purchase, whether it’s online or in stores.

WindMade had promised that its label would be on products by summer 2012, but on its website, the organization is still soliciting people and companies to be part of its Stakeholder Advisory Group to develop a product standard. Now the organization says “the new label will build on the technical foundations of the WindMade standard and will be applicable to organizations, buildings, events and eventually products.” Clearly the hope is that by giving companies more avenues to be part of it, WindMade will grow and make a difference.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Working for a renewable energy company, I know that certifications can make or break the success of a product. Some installers and dealers of wind turbines won’t touch a product unless it is SWCC certified because of the rebates offered in some states. Once consumers look for products that are windmade and only buy windmade products, then will manufacturers look more closely about using wind power as a source. It’s up to us as consumers to drive the market for windmade or other renewable energy made products.

    • Totally agree, George, certifications *can* be hugely important. Look at LEED! And SWCC is a great program (see more story: http://www.earthtechling.com/2012/07/alec-baldwin-turbine-puts-small-wind-in-spotlight/) and is becoming stronger, in part because it has gotten many states on board requiring SWCC to qualify for incentives.WindMade, though, has seemingly done little except put out a few press release — and still not having a standard for products is really holding it back. Hopefully things will improve when they redo it next year.