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Clean Power micro wind turbines and distributed wind energy

Published on July 25th, 2014 | by Tina Casey

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Micro Wind Turbines Get $1.3 Million From Energy Department

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July 25th, 2014 by  

The Energy Department has just issued a total of $1.3 million in grants aimed at tweaking micro wind turbines and mid-sized wind turbines for greater efficiencies and lower costs. While this round of funding is chump change compared to the big bucks being hurled at solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, and “clean” coal technology, it could have a significant impact on the distributed energy landscape in the US.

An upward trend for distributed wind energy would also clam up some prognosticators, who have been postulating that the US wind industry is already “mature” with little prospect for market penetration beyond large-scale turbines and wind farms.

micro wind turbines and distributed wind energy

Distributed wind energy (cropped) courtesy of US DOE.

Micro Bucks For Micro Wind Turbines

We’ve been talking nonstop about large scale wind farms in general and offshore wind farms in particular here at CleanTechnica (here and here, for example), but the Energy Department points out that over the past ten years, small and mid-sized wind turbines have accounted for more than two-thirds of all wind turbine installations in the US.

As the Energy Department sees it, there is plenty of room for more distributed wind energy in the residential, agricultural, commercial, and industrial markets. There is also potential for community-based micro wind turbine projects.

Improved micro wind turbine technology could also prove cost effective in locations that are inaccessible to larger turbines and turbine towers (although for the record, GE’s new Space Frame large scale turbine tower was designed to remedy transportation issues).

With that in mind, the new $1.3 million round of funding will be focused on turbines ranging from 5 kW to 250 kW (kilowatts) in rated capacity.

The funds will be split among four companies, and if they perform as expected we might have to re-remix CleanTechnica’s Top Five Micro Turbines – Remix! list.

None of the four grant recipients made it on to the list, which come to think of it was last revised all the way back in 2011. However, one company on our Remix list, Bergey Windpower, was in on an earlier round of funding under the same distributed wind energy grant program.

Four Micro Wind Turbine Companies To Watch

Pika Energy: Pika will focus on doubling the size of its turbine components, while improving efficiencies at the manufacturing end. The latter goal includes using an injection molding fabrication process, which is expected to improve the strength of the components while reducing their weight.

Northern Power Systems: NP will get funding to tweak its cutting edge wind turbine blade technology, in order to maximize its efficiency at low wind speeds.

Endurance Wind Power: Endurance has already come up with a prototype for an expanded wind turbine rotor, and the funding will go to enable further testing. The new rotor makes for greater efficiencies by enabling a larger wind-sweep area.

Urban Green Energy: The last time we caught up with UGE was last April, when the company launched its new vertical-axis VisionAir3 micro wind turbine.

 

UGE had achieved third-party certification for the turbine and was looking forward to the next step, which is where its share of the Energy Department funding will go. The company will put the VisionAir3 through its paces for certification through the American Wind Energy Association Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard.

Look Out Gas, Here Comes Micro Wind

Not for nothing, but according to our friends over at Fuel Fix the demand for gasoline in the US is pretty weak right now. That may be a temporary trend but eventually it will become permanent as EV market penetration grows.

The growth of the micro wind turbine market will add more fuel to the fire. UGE, for one, is already looking to tap into the market for micro wind turbine EV charging stations, so in a manner of speaking you really can drive a car with a windmill on it.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • IMPOed

    What? No Windstrument?

  • JamesWimberley

    Talk about “all of the above”. If the DoE were setting hard priorities, it would not bother with microwind at all. The advantages of scale and height for the 2mw utility models are just too great. Still, there’s an active and committed constituency – concentrated in Midwest farming states where renewable energy is a political wedge issue for the Democrats. These tiny grants are a political gesture. EGS geothermal, another small source with better prospects, recently got $31m (link)..

    • http://www.michaeljberndtson.com/ Michael Berndtson

      You are exactly right. Politics seems to be biggest obstacle for US wind. Kansas, Nebraska, South and North Dakota are dithering on wind despite being located within the Milwaukee of wind. I’m bored with the Saudi Arabia of wind meme. Milwaukee was known as the largest beer brewing town once. So that’s my new analogy. And it’s not because there’s too much wind and State engineers are worried about windmills blowing down and landing on top of switchgrass and wheat. It’s something else.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Improved, lower cost wind turbines could be helpful to the 1.2 billion or so living off grid, so I’m glad they are putting some effort in the area. Japan has a very large subsidy for small scale wind, so maybe we’ll see some development in this area that could be of benefit to remote farms and villages. But with declining solar and energy storage costs they’ll have to come up with something good.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The ‘fill-in’ value of wind makes modest sized turbines valuable to remote villages. Small turbines can’t compete with solar or grid costs, but they can minimize storage/backup generation and pay for themselves.

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