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 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.
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.