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Competitiveness Improvement Project

The Competitiveness Improvement Project provides financial and technical support to small wind turbine manufacturers.

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

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 initiated the Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) in 2012 to expand U.S. leadership in the domestic and international distributed wind turbine sector. The CIP is a cost-shared solicitation for manufacturers of small and medium 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 U.S.

The Distributed Wind Competitiveness Improvement Project fact sheet on DOE's website highlights the previous six cycles of CIP solicitations and 28 awards issued to 15 manufacturers in 13 states. Proposals require a cost-share component and are focused 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 on with specific instructions for that solicitation cycle.

Through the CIP contracts, NREL can provide blade, wind generator, and power electronics validation as well as modeling tools and technical support to use those tools. Many CIP contracts also include design reviews. Manufacturers who are interested in this type of support to bring their technology to market or improve existing technology should contact us to find out more about partnership and technical assistance opportunities.

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.

Pre-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 U.S.

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.  

Certification Testing

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. It 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

NREL hosted an all-day workshop to provide an overview of the CIP process, evaluation criteria, certification requirements, and NREL's technical support opportunities for those interested in applying to CIP solicitations.

Read the presentations for examples of past projects, proposals that are out-of-scope, and tips for preparing successful proposals and reports.


Robert Preus

Research Program Manager | 303-384-7284