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Clean Power $4.5 million for new wind turbine technology

Published on September 7th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Birds And Bats Are Sooooo Excited About These New Wind Turbine Technology Grants

September 7th, 2014 by  

Yes yes we know that domestic cats kill like a gazillion birds every year but that doesn’t exactly let wind turbines off the hook when it comes to wildlife conservation. With that in mind we bring you news that the Energy Department is pumping $4.5 million to fund four new wind turbine technology projects, one of which will focus on analyzing bird and bat flight in and around wind farms and wind turbines.

$4.5 million for new wind turbine technology

Atmosphere to Electrons Program (screenshot) courtesy of US DOE

 Relief in Sight For Birds and Bats

The new $4.5 million for new wind turbine technology  will help tie up some loose ends that have been bedeviling the wind industry.

Not to get on cats particularly, since the impact of wind turbines on birds is also quite low when compared to pesticides, habitat loss, and wildlife management, but on the other hand the number of wind turbines in the US (that includes onshore, offshore, and micro wind turbines) is skyrocketing and that issue needs to be addressed.

A growing body of experience has demonstrated that properly designed and sited wind turbines can reduce the impacts. One issue in the past was the use of open-work metal frames for turbine towers, which can attract birds as roosting and nesting spots. The current generation of tubular towers is one solution, and you can check out GE’s new cladded Space Frame turbine tower for another one.

With that in mind, the new round of funding includes $1.1 million for Maine’s Biodiversity Research Institute to study bird and bat flight behavior around wind turbines, combining audio and visual systems:

This system will use near-infrared cameras and specialized software to detect animal movements throughout the day and night, and will work to automate the identification of different species of birds and bats. The project will help researchers better understand potential environmental impacts of wind turbines.

Radar Hearts Wind Farms

Another interesting project in the new wind turbine technology package is a $1.4 million grant for Texas Tech University. The research team is tasked with developing a modular, portable, energy efficient radar system for analyzing how wind flows through wind farms.

The project dovetails with the Energy Department’s Atmosphere to Electrons initiative (didn’t know we had one of those, did you?), which aims at optimizing the placement of wind turbines in wind farms.

We’re intrigued by the use of radar to push wind turbine technology forward because historically, concerns over the impact of wind turbines on radar operations have hindered the placement of wind turbines near military operations, airports, and other facilities.

Those concerns have been allayed, to the extent that the Coast Guard even has a new pair of wind turbines at its radar station on Cape Cod.

More Goodies For Wind Turbine Technology

The other two parts of the package are aimed at the turbines themselves. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is getting $1.5 million to develop a system designed to avoid unscheduled downtime for wind turbines. The system will closely track the electric current of turbine generators, so that operators can get an early warning about impending problems and schedule turbine maintenance accordingly.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. We’ve been tracking the linkage between the reluctance of some elected officials to promote wind energy with the Koch brothers lobbying efforts, North Carolina being one example.

Despite having some of the best offshore wind potential in the US, the state hasn’t exactly been front and center in the wind energy field.

However, it looks like North Carolina is becoming a wind turbine technology hotspot, like it or not. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is getting a $500,000 piece of the new funding pie to develop a new magnet-based gearbox that would reduce generator noise from wind turbines, while improving their reliability and efficiency.

Onwards And Upwards For US Wind Energy

When you take the nation’s as yet-untapped offshore wind energy potential into account, it’s been a busy season for wind power.


Earlier this spring the Energy Department announced $141 million in new funding to accelerate the construction of three cutting edge offshore wind farms, and in July it offered a conditional loan guarantee commitment for the massive Cape Wind offshore farm off the coast of Massachusetts.

The agency also recently published two new wind power reports that demonstrate how new wind turbine technology has the potential to play a major role in the US domestic energy scene.

The Interior Department has also been pushing things a long this summer, with the announcement of new leasing areas for offshore wind farms off the coast of New Jersey and North Carolina.

All of this activity translates into new jobs, of course, which should give the Obama Administration plenty of ammo for the upcoming fight over the federal production tax credit for wind energy.

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About the Author

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+.

  • As for cats killing birds, they kill a lot of other animals as well. In suburban Boston, they have pretty much killed off the rabbits there. I wish people would keep them inside.

    While it is difficult to see any birds (or bats) killed by wind turbines, in this chart that I picked up along the way from ASC Renewables, a firm located in the UK, you can see that the threat that wind turbines pose to birds is relatively low. This percentage is likely to increase as the wind turbine count increases.

  • UncleB

    Northern Ontario boasts sub freezing to – 40C winds for 8 months a year. This denser air increased Wind Turbine efficiency by up to 30 % !

  • Joseph Dubeau

    Is there any offshore Wind turbines in California?

    • Bob_Wallace

      No. In general the water is too deep for the type of turbine towers used in other parts of the world.

      The first West Coast floating wind turbines are scheduled to be installed off the coast of Coos Bay, Oregon in a year or so. Once designs are firmed up they will likely be installed further south.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        Thanks, that would explain it.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Take a look at the wind map below. Off our coasts there are some incredible wind resources. And they tend to produce a lot more during daytime (peak demand hours) than does inland wind.

          And it you’d like to see what the wind is doing right now check out this link. You can click-hold/grab and pull the globe around and double click to zoom in.

          Every time I’ve taken a look it’s been blowing a lot harder along the Pacific Coast than in the middle of the country where our best wind farms are located.


  • Steven F

    “Not to get on cats particularly, since the impact of wind turbines on birds is also quite low when compared to pesticides, habitat loss, and wildlife management, ”

    In california ground squirrels are a big problem for ranches and they do carry bluebonic plegue. It is my understanding that many ranches use poisons to keep the population under control. This includes the wind turbines in the Altimont Pass area in california. The Altimont pass area is the worst in the US for wind turbine bird deaths in the US. Currently the woners of the wind farms are replacing the older small turbines with larger bird frendly designs ( no lattic tower, slower turbine ration speed).

    Most of the studies on the bird problem in the Alitmont pass area focus on turbine placement and turbine design. Only one study I saw mentioned poisons were being used by the ranchers. I have wondered how big the impact of poisons are on the birds but have found no information on that.

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