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The US Energy Department is looking to accelerate offshore wind, promote cutting edge onshore wind technology and pour more dollars into foundational R&D.

Clean Power

Big News For US Offshore Wind, Onshore Wind, & Foundational Research

The US Energy Department is looking to accelerate offshore wind, promote cutting edge onshore wind technology and pour more dollars into foundational R&D.

Does this ever get old? While President* Trump is promoting his affection for the US coal industry, his own Department of Energy has been pulling the rug out from under him. The latest news involves creation of a new offshore wind R&D consortium, a cutting edge onshore wind turbine, and a $99 million round of funding for advanced energy research.

A New Offshore Wind Consortium For The USA

The s0-named US Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium is still in the planning stages. If all goes as planned, the new consortium will become a four-year effort to “support and broaden” the project portfolio of EERE, the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

To get the ball rolling, EERE has issued a notice of intent for a funding opportunity, which will go to recruit an administrator to lead the consortium of “stakeholder members committed to collaborative, mutually beneficial R&D.”

The focus will be on offshore wind technologies specific to US offshore sites, including:

…wind plant technology advancement; wind power resource and physical site characterization; and installation, operations and maintenance, and supply chain technology solutions in order to reduce the cost of offshore wind in the U.S.

To emphasize that this is all about bringing down the cost of offshore wind, EERE’s notice of intent explains:

…The creation of a cooperative, public‐private Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium will maximize the impact of EERE’s research and development funding while addressing the needs of the nascent U.S. offshore wind industry. Through this consortium, EERE will establish shared investment in a portfolio of research projects, ranging from innovative, early‐stage conceptual research, to the validation and testing of these innovative concepts…

That’s not all. Among its “high‐level” goals, EERE  cites “creating a world‐leading innovation hub.”

This is all bad news for the US coal industry. Although coal production has spiked in recent months, analysts concur that the trend will be short lived.

Cheap natural gas continues to be the major force behind a rapid series of coal plant closures in the US, but the falling cost of onshore wind farms has also begun to factor in. R&D that reduces the cost of offshore wind will add more fuel to the fire.

And Better Onshore Turbines, Too

Speaking of the falling cost of onshore wind energy, the Energy Department’s Sandia National Laboratories has just announced the winning team for its energy innovation Pitch Competition.

The competition, in partnership with the startup accelerator ABQid, is designed to help energy innovators bring their ideas to market. Also pitching in to help were representatives from the engineering and manufacturing company Team Technologies and Central New Mexico Community College’s tech entrepreneurship center, CNM Ingenuity.

The winning team pitched a distributed wind energy system dubbed Aero-MINE (Motionless, INtegrated, Energy).

The system is described as “wind energy harvesters that have no external moving parts, are safe, reliable, quiet and totally scalable.”

The image at the top of this article depicts a pair of Aero-MINEs in action. Incoming wind induces a suction-driven flow through air jets (the red thingies), and the energy is transferred to a generator.

If that sounds like the Aero-MINE system is leveraging the Venturi effect, you could be on to something.

Aero-MINEs can be installed on the front edge of a building, so it could share space with existing rooftop solar installations. That’s an important advantage considering that major companies like IKEA, Amazon, and Walmart are already committed to rooftop solar.

The team is also looking to hook up with an energy storage partner.  Their two-year goal is to recruit early adopters among major businesses, then expand to mid-sized and residential properties.

They are heading to San Francisco on November 29 to face off against teams from 11 other laboratories, so stay tuned for more on that.

$99 Million For Cutting Edge Energy Research

The third development involves an Energy Department program established in 2009, called the Energy Frontier Research Centers. These research centers have a strong focus on foundational research leading to next-generation solar, biomass, energy storage, and renewable hydrogen. Some of them also concentrate on advancing the nuclear energy field, but none of them appear dedicated to supporting the US coal industry.

As described by an Energy Department press release, the $99 million infusion of new funding will enable the research centers to continue laying “the groundwork for next-generation energy solutions.”

Energy Secretary Rick Perry had this to say about the new round of funding:

“These centers will mobilize our top scientists in the effort to secure America’s energy future…By forging leading researchers into strong, innovative teams, the Energy Frontier Research Centers can be expected to generate the energy breakthroughs that will define the future of our economic and national security.”

That’s interesting, considering that Perry has been maneuvering to protect the nation’s fleet of aging coal power plants. However, he has also consistently championed his agency’s renewable energy programs, so there’s that.

The new funding round will involve 32 research centers that are nearing the end of their current four-year funding cycle (there are 36 centers in all).

They may face some competition for the research dollars. In addition to proposals from the established research centers, the Energy Department will also accept proposals from newcomers.

If you’re thinking of joining in the scrum, here’s what to expect:

Selection will be based on a rigorous peer review process…DOE will emphasize emerging science priorities that have been highlighted in recent workshops, including quantum materials, catalysis science, synthesis science, instrumentation science, next-generation energy storage, future nuclear energy, and energy-water issues.

Follow me on Twitter.

*As of this writing.

Image: via Sandia National Laboratories.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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