Federal Funding Available for Low-Speed Wind Turbines

The United States government will develop turbines that can generate electricity in lower wind speeds.

GOLDEN, Colorado, US, 2001-06-11 [SolarAccess.com] The United States government will develop turbines that can generate electricity in lower wind speeds. In a document released on June 7, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory asks for comments on its proposed approach to a cost-shared public-private project to develop large wind turbines for low- and moderate-wind resource sites throughout the U.S. “Wind energy is experiencing strong growth worldwide” because it can generate on a competitive basis for grid-connected applications in locations with Class 6 resources where the average wind speed is 6.4 to 7.0 m/s at a height of 10 m. At those sites, the unsubsidized cost to generate from wind turbines ranges from 4¢ to 5¢/kWh. “While development of these high-quality wind resources is expected to be substantial in the near term, limitations of available Class 6 sites, coupled with their distance from load centers and transmission facilities, will eventually constrain U.S. wind energy development to a fraction of its potential,” says the document. NREL’s Wind Energy Systems Program wants to encourage continued long-term growth by focusing its research for large (>100 kW) turbines on technology that will be competitive at Class 5 and Class 4 wind resource sites, where speeds are 6.0-6.4 and 5.6-6.0 m/s respectively. “This strategic objective will result in a twenty-fold increase in U.S. land areas viable for wind energy development,” notes the document. Lower resource areas are closer to population centres, with Class 4 resource areas closer to major load centres by a factor of five over Class 6 areas. “Achieving cost effectiveness at lower wind speeds will require aggressive, breakthrough technology that builds on lessons learned from ongoing wind-energy, public-private partnerships,” explains the NREL release. Promising technology under DOE’s WindPACT (Wind Partnerships for Advanced Component Technology) project “may yield new opportunities for development of advanced wind turbine architectures.” The Low Wind Speed Turbine (LWT) Concept Studies will begin later this year to take advantage of these new opportunities by assisting industry partners to study advanced concepts for utility-scale turbines which incorporate the best new ideas for achieving cost effectiveness at lower wind speeds. The LWT initiative will build on the success of DOE’s Next Generation Turbine (NGT) project that will conclude in 2003. NGT turbines are expected to generate electricity for as low as 3.0¢/kWh at Class 6 sites and for 5.0¢/kWh at Class 4 sites. The LWT series will also consider other factors such as aesthetics, noise, manufacturability, transportability, reliability and maintainability, and the project “will take a broad view toward identifying configurations that have high potential for accelerating the production of wind-generated electricity.” The overall goal of the LWT project is to partner with U.S. companies to “develop technology that makes wind energy a competitive electricity supply option in the extensive Class 4 and 5 wind sites” around the country. The specific objective is to develop large turbine systems that can generate power for 3.0¢/kWh in Class 4 wind sites by 2007. “Development of a new wind turbine that results from the best design practices and incorporates the latest technology must proceed in measured steps spanning several years,” says the pre-solicitation, SOL RAM-1-31235. The LWT Concept Studies will examine the technology and market issues related to achieving the cost-of-energy objective, and NREL wants a report that describes the conceptual design of a “highly advanced, utility-scale wind turbine capable of operating competitively in low wind sites.” The report will describe the studies conducted, including evaluation of innovative concepts suited for low-wind sites, and the assessment of related technology and market issues. NREL will conduct a competitive procurement with the U.S. wind industry to perform the LWT Concept Studies. A Request for Proposals will be released this September, with funding of $600,000 for up to six fixed-price subcontracts. Proof-of-concept turbines would be operational within four years and final prototype turbines must be ready by 2007. NREL estimates that it will fund $50 million over five years on the development under a cost-sharing arrangement with industry. The June notice asks for expressions of interest from potential respondents to the September RFP, as well as comments on the proposed plan and scope of work. Responses are limited to five pages and must be received by June 29.

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