DOE Boosts Distributed Wind Manufacturing Funding Through Competitiveness Project


The Energy Department and the Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently announced funding for projects led by Pika Energy, Northern Power Systems, Endurance Wind Power, and Urban Green Energy that will help drive down the cost of small and medium-sized wind energy systems. Through the second round of the Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP), the teams will receive a total of $1.27 million between them. In support of the Energy Department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, this funding aims to help U.S. manufacturers improve their turbine designs and manufacturing processes to reduce hardware costs, improve efficiency and eventually earn certification from accredited third-party certification bodies, which issue easy-to-understand labels showing a turbine has met performance and safety testing requirements set by the wind industry.

Comprising more than two-thirds of all wind turbines installed in the United States in the last decade, distributed wind energy systems provide clean, renewable energy to consumers and reduce their energy bills. Distributed wind systems are typically installed on residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial, or community sites, and can range in size from 5 kilowatts (kW) to multiple megawatts depending on their application. While these wind systems vary widely in size, the CIP focuses on small and medium-sized turbines up to 250 kW in rated capacity.  Here are the projects announced for funding:

• Pika Energy of Westbrook, Maine, will improve the performance of their existing components and manufacturing process. Pika will scale up their existing turbine components to roughly twice their current size to produce a turbine capable of producing more energy at a reduced end-user cost. Pika will also implement the use of an injection molding technique for manufacturing in order to produce lighter and stronger components.
• Northern Power Systems of Barre, Vermont, will develop and deploy an innovative blade designed for low wind speed applications. Northern Power Systems will also model and test an advanced control method that will help increase the amount of energy produced by their turbine.
• Endurance Wind Power of Spanish Forks, Utah, will test the prototype of their expanded rotor that allows for a larger wind-sweep area, leading to a more efficient turbine.
• Urban Green Energy of New York City, New York, will test their vertical axis wind turbine against the American Wind Energy Association’s Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard. The standard was created by the small wind turbine industry, scientists, state officials, and consumers to provide consumers with realistic and comparable performance ratings of competing products.

This second round of CIP awards builds on the success of the first round awarded in 2013, through which Bergey Windpower identified the component improvements necessary to optimize a turbine for increased performance and reduced end-user costs, while Pika Energy developed an advanced blade manufacturing process they plan to further improve in this second round.

— Source: U.S. Department of Energy