NREL Seeks Proposals to Advance Distributed Wind Turbine Technology
On April 11, the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a fifth round of Requests for Proposals under DOE’s Distributed Wind Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP), an annual competitive solicitation through NREL geared to small and mid-sized wind turbines.
The CIP helps manufacturers address barriers like outdated technology and increasing hardware costs, preventing the stagnation of the domestic market for distributed wind systems. Maintaining U.S. market leadership, both domestically and internationally, requires next-generation wind turbine technologies—but improving components and manufacturing processes, moving concept turbines through prototype testing, and completing turbine and type specifications can be costly. Participating in the CIP can offset some of these costs, supporting companies working in the distributed wind sector to develop innovative turbines.
The round five solicitations focus on five separate topic areas: component improvement and overall system optimization, manufacturing process improvements, prototype testing, turbine certification for wind turbines with rotor-swept areas less than 200 square meters, and type certification for turbines with rotor-swept areas between 200 and 1,000 square meters.
Sixteen subcontracts have been awarded to nine distributed wind companies over the previous four rounds of CIP. Through the project, U.S. manufacturers have improved turbine designs and manufacturing processes to reduce costs, improved efficiency, and work towards certification demonstrating that the machines meet performance and safety requirements.
Successful past projects include:
- Northern Power Systems of Barre, Vermont, achieved a 15% increase in annual energy production by improving aerodynamics and lengthening the blade design for their new “C Series” blades, currently manufactured by two U.S. suppliers
- Pika Energy of Westbrook, Maine, demonstrated a novel injection-molding process for producing high-performance wind turbine blades, reducing blade costs by 90% compared to conventional hand-laid composite blades of comparable quality
- Intergrid developed the first wide-band, gap-based inverter designed for wind applications of up to 25 kilowatt on a single-phase system
- Wetzel Engineering developed a new approach to adding larger, pitch-controlled rotors to wind generators designed for stall control, resulting in a 28% increase in production and a 15% reduction in the turbine’s levelized cost of energy.