U.S. DOE Funds Research on Modular Technology for Large Wind Turbines

Development of 5- to 8-megawatt wind turbines by Northern Power is moving forward thanks to a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The Phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant will allow the company, a subsidiary of Distributed Energy Systems Corp., to continue development of key modular construction approaches necessary to build the turbines. With blade lengths of 60 meters or greater and tower heads often weighing more than 450 tons, shipping, installing and maintaining larger turbines is a challenge. Northern Power’s Phase 2 contract with the DOE covers manufacturing and assembly for permanent magnet generators and power converters, to improve the viability of large-scale wind power both on- and offshore. The project’s emphasis on modular designs is intended to permit easier subassembly transportation, less weight per component, partial power capabilities and more flexibility in providing onsite service. “Over the last several years, our wind experts have focused on developing large-scale, direct-drive wind turbine generator and power converter systems,” said Darren Jamison, Northern Power’s president, “to address the cost, utility interconnection and equipment implementation issues that are prominent in the multi-megawatt wind market today.” The first phase of the competitive, three-phase SBIR program is the startup phase, during which exploration is funded based on the technical merit or feasibility of a technology. Phase II grants enable development of the technology and evaluation of its commercial potential, and Phase III moves the product from the laboratory into the marketplace.
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