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NREL Selects U.S. Manufacturers To Develop Next-Generation Distributed Wind Technologies

DOE Competitiveness Improvement Project Leverages NREL Technical Support and Private-Sector Funding To Help Drive Down Cost of Distributed Wind Energy

Sept. 9, 2020

Photo of a small wind turbine rising into the sky above a barn in a snowy field.
The new Bergey Windpower Excel 15 wind turbine, developed with support from the Competitiveness Improvement Project, delivers power at a cost below 12 cents per kilowatt-hour while providing greatly improved grid interconnectivity. Recent collaborative efforts through the program are working to allow this turbine to provide power during times of grid disturbances and blackouts, such as the wildfires currently occurring in the western United States. Photo by Bill Schwankl, Alternative Energy Services 
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has selected seven U.S. manufacturers to enter into negotiation to receive Department of Energy (DOE) Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) awards, which are designed to accelerate deployment of small- and medium-sized wind turbines across the country and lower the cost of energy from distributed wind. NREL manages the program on behalf of DOE.

“Through this round of CIP awards, we saw a strong continued focus on projects that will improve and certify existing turbine systems—such as increasing energy capture through expanded rotor sizes, which should result in large decreases in the cost of energy,” said Ian Baring-Gould, NREL’s distributed wind program lead. “Several of the awards also build on recent work to develop a modular, high-efficiency wind-specific power converter that could be produced at low cost and applied to multiple turbine systems up to around 300 kilowatts in size. Work on these new inverter topologies and the integration of energy storage will continue to push distributed wind’s ability to provide local grid support as part of more distributed energy networks.”

NREL has awarded contracts to the following companies through the most recent CIP solicitation.

  • Carter Wind Turbines (Wichita Falls, Texas) is receiving two awards. The first is to develop and implement a new 36-meter (m) rotor for Carter’s 300-kilowatt (kW) platform, more than doubling the rotor swept area of the current turbine model. The new blades will build on the flex beam structure that has been a hallmark of the Carter wind turbine design. The second award will support work to optimize and implement a new variable-speed power and control system that includes integrated energy storage.
  • Matric Limited (Seneca, Pennsylvania) will finalize the development of the Intergrid 25-kW wind power inverter and establish commercial production capability including automated testing to deliver over 1,000 units per year. This effort will provide a modular, small wind turbine inverter that can be applied across the sector.
  • Pecos Wind Power (Somerville, Massachusetts) will build on its earlier pre-prototype development award for a new 85-kW turbine by optimizing the rotor, nacelle assembly, and controller to increase power production, reduce loads, and lower cost of the blade-pitch system and nacelle mainframe.
  • QED Wind Power (Tucson, Arizona) will complete the certification and Underwriters Laboratory listing of its 20-kW horizontal-axis wind generator.
  • Star Wind (East Dorset, Vermont) will conduct type certification testing to verify performance and structural safety of its 45-kW, low-wind-speed-optimized, six-bladed horizontal-axis wind generator.
  • United Wind LLC (Stowe, Vermont) will complete prototype testing of a new Class III rotor, advanced system controls, and integrated storage for the XANT M 95-kW wind generator, allowing this system to provide expanded grid services and creating an autonomous 100-kW energy system.
  • Windurance LLC (Coraopolis, Pennsylvania) will build on the existing Intergrid 25-kW wind power inverter platform to verify design, manufacture test units, and conduct certification testing of a three-phase, 480-volt inverter and control system for wind generators in the 50-kW to 300-kW size class.

A History of Distributed Wind Support

Since its launch in 2013, CIP has helped expand U.S. leadership in domestic and international distributed wind turbine sectors. CIP is a cost-shared solicitation designed to reduce the levelized cost of energy and accelerate deployment of small- and medium-sized wind turbines in the United States.

“This program is working to make wind energy cost-competitive with other distributed-generation technologies and increasing the number of wind turbine designs certified to national testing standards,” Baring-Gould said.

Through eight CIP funding cycles supported by DOE, NREL has awarded 36 subcontracts to 20 companies, totaling just over $7.75 million while leveraging additional millions in private-sector funding. CIP has also enabled manufacturers across the country to receive technical support provided by NREL.

CIP Successes

CIP funding and technical support have helped manufacturers of small- and mid-sized wind turbines optimize their designs, develop advanced components, assess innovative manufacturing processes, certify new turbine models, and improve unit reliability.

Bergey Windpower developed and completed the certification and listing of the Excel 15 wind turbine (see photo). This turbine increases power output by 110% while reducing the overall cost of energy by more than 50% compared to Bergey’s legacy Excel 10 turbine. With the support of CIP, Bergey continues to develop products aimed at reducing installation costs and is working on technology to enable turbines to provide backup power services for rural consumers and disaster response.

Primus Wind Power recently completed final certification approval of its Air30, a micro-turbine model designed for deployment in isolated locations, commonly in hybrid applications with solar photovoltaics. Primus is updating the turbine’s power electronics to maximize performance while also implementing a quiet operational mode for nighttime power generation.

Additionally, three pre-prototype wind turbine development projects that received fall 2019 awards—Ducted Wind Turbines, Windward Engineering, and Xflow Energy—continue to refine their technical designs with the goal of bringing new, low-cost turbine models to the market in coming years.

Department of Energy Support

The DOE Wind Energy Technologies Office supports CIP in alignment with the office’s goals to make wind energy cost competitive with other distributed energy resources, improve interoperability with other distributed energy resources, and increase the number of wind turbine designs certified to national testing standards. On Aug. 11, DOE announced the eight new Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) projects.

For more information, visit nrel.gov and download the Distributed Wind Competitiveness Improvement Project fact sheet.