Competitiveness Improvement Project

The Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) provides financial and technical support to manufacturers of small wind turbines.

Three-bladed small wind turbine on top of lattice tower.

2021 Competitiveness Improvement Project Workshop

Miss the 2021 Competitiveness Improvement Project Workshop, or want to revisit the event content? Workshop recordings will be available in the coming weeks. In the meantime, view content from the 2020 workshop below.

Notice of Intent for 2022 Competitiveness Improvement Project

NREL intends to release a call for proposals for the 2022 Competitiveness Improvement Project in the first quarter of 2022.

Read the notice

The distributed wind industry requires rapid innovation to reduce costs and increase customer confidence, but many companies that build small and mid-sized wind turbines do not have the resources to develop and certify next-generation technology.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wind Energy Technologies Office and NREL launched the CIP in 2013 to expand U.S. leadership in the domestic and international distributed wind turbine sector. CIP is a cost-shared solicitation for manufacturers of small and medium-sized wind turbines to optimize their designs, invest in advanced component development, implement advanced manufacturing processes, and help certify these turbine models. These projects aim to reduce the levelized cost of energy and accelerate deployment in the United States.

August 2020 Solicitation Selections Announced

On Aug. 11, 2020, DOE announced eight new CIP projects that will help make distributed wind energy more cost-competitive, improve its interoperability with other distributed energy resources, and increase the number of small- and mid-scale wind turbine designs certified to national testing standards.

Reflecting a trend seen with larger wind turbines, most of these projects are developing small- or medium-sized wind turbines with longer blades and larger rotors, allowing them to capture more energy even in areas with lower wind speeds. Several of these projects will integrate energy storage with their systems to provide grid support services and resiliency. Two projects will build on recent work funded under CIP to develop and manufacture a modular, high-efficiency wind-specific power converter that will be compatible with a variety of wind turbines.

NREL manages CIP on behalf of DOE's Wind Energy Technologies Office. Since 2013, NREL has awarded 36 subcontracts to 20 companies, totaling $7.75 million of investment, while leveraging $3.79 million in additional private-sector funding. The August 2020 selections add $2.6 million in DOE funding, bringing the total DOE investment to over $10 million, and leveraging over $5 million in industry cost-share.

Proposals require a cost-share component and focus on projects that have a high technology-readiness level. Proposals are evaluated based on technical merit and the ability to reduce the levelized cost of distributed wind energy. When funding is allocated, NREL will post a request for proposal with specific instructions for that solicitation cycle.

For more information, see the Distributed Wind Competitiveness Improvement Project fact sheet.

Common Award Topics

NREL has conducted requests for proposals for the seven award topics listed below. The selection of topics is guided by available funds and input from the wind industry about specific areas of concern. Each CIP solicitation cycle may not include every one of these categories.

Prototype Development

These projects focus on moving original concepts from the preliminary design phase to development of a production prototype that can be evaluated. The goal is to increase the number of certified wind turbines with innovative designs that are manufactured in the United States.

Prototype Manufacture and Installation

These projects support the construction and installation of a production prototype of the full turbine system that is ready for field or dynamometer testing and if applicable, certification.

Prototype Testing

These projects validate a prototype turbine to determine the commercial readiness of the turbine system. These results are intended to confirm turbine designs or improvements are ready for certification testing.

Component Innovations

These projects support innovation in existing wind generator designs to improve components, leading to a reduced levelized cost of energy.

System Optimization

These projects support improvements in existing wind generator designs to optimize the full system or a subsystem of components, leading to a reduced levelized cost of energy.

Small Turbine Certification and/or Listing

These projects specifically evaluate turbines with a rotor swept area less than or equal to 200 m2, applying the International Electrotechnical Commission 61400-2:2013 standard, American Wind Energy Association SWT 1 standard, or both, and can also include listing to Underwriters Laboratories standards.

Type Certification

These projects consider turbines with rotor swept area greater than 200 m2. Contracts are for the completion of the design basis evaluation, design evaluation, manufacturing evaluation, and to ensure turbine conformity and final type certificate to the International Electrotechnical Commission 61400-1 consolidated version and all subsequent relevant standards.

Manufacturing Process Innovation

These projects support designing, building, and validating improved manufacturing processes for a defined production wind turbine, leading to a reduced levelized cost of energy.

Competitiveness Improvement Project Workshop

For wind manufacturers interested in applying to CIP solicitations, NREL hosted an all-day virtual workshop in December 2020. Speakers provided an overview of the CIP process, evaluation criteria, certification requirements, and NREL's technical support opportunities.

Read the presentations for examples of past projects, proposals that are out-of-scope, and tips for preparing successful proposals and reports. You can also access the workshop recording below.


Ian Baring-Gould

Research Program Manager