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NREL Issues Request for Proposals To Enhance Distributed Wind

Small Businesses Invited To Apply for DOE Competitiveness Improvement Project Funding

Feb. 27, 2020

At a glance, the towns of Norman, Oklahoma, and Potsdam, New York, have little in common. You can say the same about Lakewood, Colorado, and Grayson, Georgia. In fact, all of these towns have one thing in common: a small business that applied for, and won funding from, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) for distributed wind.

Five distinct distributed wind turbines standing in a field during the day.
The DOE Competitiveness Improvement Project has just announced a new funding solicitation to support manufacturers of distributed wind turbines. Photo courtesy of Sonsight Wind 

A new CIP funding cycle is underway. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) issued a request for proposals (RFP), which is posted on and closes on April 21, 2020. The RFP includes specific instructions for the current solicitation, which should be reviewed carefully by interested parties. Proposals require a cost-share component and are focused on projects nearing market readiness. Proposals are evaluated based on technical merit and the ability to reduce the levelized cost of distributed wind energy.

NREL has managed the CIP since its inception in 2012 to support manufacturers of distributed wind turbines—typically small businesses—through competitively awarded, cost-shared funding that:

  • Further develops promising new turbine designs
  • Optimizes existing designs for increased energy production, lower cost, and expanded grid integration capabilities
  • Certifies turbines and components to national and international standards for safety, function, and performance
  • Develops advanced manufacturing processes to reduce hardware costs.

“A high-impact, win-win effort, the CIP supports small U.S. businesses in their development of new and innovative technology that helps expand wind energy into the evolving distributed generation market,” said Ian Baring-Gould, NREL’s distributed wind energy program lead. “In addition to financial support, small businesses that are selected for awards can access the expertise of NREL researchers and the lab’s test facilities. We can also put them in touch with other industry and national laboratory experts.”

To date, 36 subcontracts have been awarded to 20 companies—a $7.75-million investment. Private-sector funding is also part of the program and, so far, that includes an additional $3.79 million. A fact sheet about the CIP program provides information about several awardees, their locations, and a funding breakdown for the three major CIP research areas.

The previous CIP solicitation included funding and technical support for the early assessment of new, innovative designs through pre-prototype development. Small businesses selected for awards undertake projects that enable wind technology as a distributed energy resource, help make distributed wind cost competitive, improve its interoperability with other distributed energy resources, and increase the number of small and midscale wind turbine designs certified to national and international standards.

“The program directly impacts small businesses and their communities by helping manufacturers bring new technology to market, improve an existing technology, or support innovation that allows existing systems to enter new market areas,” Baring-Gould said. “DOE’s support also helps companies put new products through a third-party certification process, which helps build consumer confidence while improving the safety record of the distributed wind industry at large.”

The CIP solicitation includes several topics that undergo annual refinement based on extensive input from wind industry experts. In 2020, the topics are:

  • Pre-prototype development
  • Prototype validation
  • Component innovations
  • System optimization
  • Certification assessment
  • Type certification
  • Manufacturing process innovation.

In December, NREL hosted an all-day workshop to provide an overview of the CIP, including evaluation criteria, certification requirements, and NREL's technical support opportunities for those interested in applying to CIP solicitations. You can read the presentations from last year’s workshop for examples of past projects and to learn tips for preparing successful proposals and reports.