The US Department of Energy is awarding more than $5 million to support US wind energy development. Two projects receiving a total of $3.4 million over two years will improve short-term wind forecasting, which will accelerate the use of wind power in electricity transmission networks by allowing utilities and grid operators to more accurately forecast when and where electricity will be generated from wind power. Three additional projects are receiving a total of more than $1.8 million to boost the speed and scale of midsize wind turbine technology development and deployment.
Electricity grid operators need to accurately predict and plan for the energy output of wind power plants in their systems. With better forecasting, utilities can more reliably connect variable power sources such as wind energy with electricity grids, and can decrease their need for back-up energy sources such as natural gas or hydropower.
The two funding recipients—AWS Truepower LLC in Albany, New York and WindLogics, Inc. in Saint Paul, Minnesota—will lead teams of several partners and work with DOE and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to deploy advanced atmospheric measurement systems over a broad area, provide data that allow advanced weather prediction systems to improve short-term turbine-level wind forecasts, and demonstrate the value of these forecasting improvements for electric utility operations.
NOAA will provide project support in the areas of research instrument deployment and operation, data assimilation, advanced weather modeling, and meteorology expertise and analysis. A network of sophisticated atmospheric instrumentation will be deployed and operated in the regions identified and supported by the AWS Truepower and WindLogics teams. Data from these networks and other sources will be incorporated into an advanced weather forecast model by NOAA to provide more accurate wind forecasts.
In addition to the funding for short-term wind energy forecasting, DOE announced that three projects will receive approximately $620,000 each to accelerate the first phase of development, testing, and commercialization of domestically manufactured midsize wind turbines with rated generating capacities between 200 and 500 kilowatts.
Midsize turbines are often used to generate renewable electricity at schools, farms, factories, private and public facilities, remote locations, and community and tribal wind energy plants. Their size allows installation at the site of electricity use, minimizing the need for new electricity transmission infrastructure.
DOE will provide funding over two years to strengthen the US midsize turbine market and help address factors that have contributed to slow growth in the midsize wind turbine market to date, including a small number of available midsize turbine models.
Each of the grantees will be eligible to apply for a second phase of the projects, with up to $4 million available in additional funding.
- Clean Green Energy, LLC (Brighton, Michigan). This project is working to bring a 200-kilowatt vertical axis wind turbine design into cost-effective mass production. The vertical turbine design will allow for distributed onsite generation near buildings.
- Northern Power Systems (Barre, Vermont). This project is leveraging almost $10 million in private sector capital to develop a 450-kilowatt turbine, helping to complete the final turbine design, procurement, and prototype testing within 18 months. The project is expected to reduce the cost of energy from midsize turbines.
- Texas Tech University (Lubbock, Texas). This project aims to adapt a turbine featuring two blades located downwind of the tower. This turbine design builds upon a commercially-produced architecture and scales it up to a 500-kilowatt rated output. The tilt-down guyed tower (braced by guy wires and hinged near its base) allows installation without cranes. This project seeks to compete on cost with fossil fuel power generation.