U.S. DOE Helps Manufacturers of Small and Mid-Size Wind Turbines Meet Certification Requirements

Wind turbines NREL CIP
Image courtesy of U.S. DOE.

The U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a fourth round of requests for proposals under the Energy Department’s Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) for distributed wind energy. The CIP aims to help U.S. manufacturers of small and mid-size wind turbines (with rotor-swept areas less than 1,000 square meters) to improve their turbine designs and manufacturing processes to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and eventually earn certification ensuring performance and safety.

The latest round of the Competitiveness Improvement Project helps companies to meet wind turbine certification requirements. NREL is currently accepting applications for two categories of wind turbines: those with rotor-swept areas less than 200 square meters and those with rotor-swept areas between 200 square meters and 1,000 square meters. Proposals are due November 2, 2015.

To maintain American leadership in domestic and international small and medium wind turbine markets and to compete with other distributed energy options, low-cost next-generation wind turbine technologies are needed. However, it can be costly to improve components or manufacturing processes for distributed wind turbines, move concept turbines through prototype testing, or complete turbine or type certification; these costs often limit the ability of small businesses to improve their distributed wind energy technologies. The CIP is an annual competitive solicitation funded by the Energy Department and managed by NREL that addresses these market barriers.

Previous CIP solicitations have resulted in awards to a number of companies in the distributed wind industry: Pika Energy, Bergey Windpower, Endurance Windpower, Northern Power Systems, Urban Green Energy, Intergrid, Wetzel Engineering, Primus Wind Power, and Ventera Wind.

The CIP project has already demonstrated success in helping companies improve turbines for the United States and international markets including:

  • At no additional cost, Northern Power Systems of Barre, Vermont, achieved a 15% increase in annual energy production over the company’s previous model by improving aerodynamics and lengthening their blade design from 10 meters to 11.6 meters. Northern Power Systems’ new “C Series” blades are manufactured by two U.S. suppliers, and the NPS100 nacellescontinue to be manufactured and tested.
  • Pika Energy of Westbrook, Maine, has demonstrated a novel injection-molding process for producing high-performance wind turbine blades, reducing blade costs by approximately 90% compared with conventional hand-laid composite blades of comparable quality. Pika Energy successfully completed testing for certification of their T701 wind turbine through the Small Wind Certification Council, and this turbine is now commercially available.
  • Three CIP awardees are testing their system designs to meet performance and safety standards and gaining third-party certification of their test procedures and results, while a fourth is conducting prototype testing.

Turbine quality assurance requirements can help prevent unethical marketing and false claims thereby ensuring consumer protection and industry credibility. In addition, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced performance and quality standards that small wind turbines must meet to qualify for the 30% federal Investment Tax Credit. Currently 13 small turbine models are certified to these standards, and the CIP aims to increase this number.

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