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September 13th, 2010

DOE earmarks $1.9M for midsize wind turbine tech

Published on September 13th, 2010 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

A vertical-axis turbine. (Credit: Clean Green Energy.)

Three mid-size (200-500 kilowatts) wind energy technologies are getting a boost from the DOE. The agency announced today that Clean Green Energy, Northern Power Systems and Texas Tech University will each get $620,000 for first phase work on unique approaches to smaller-scale wind energy generation.

Clean Green Energy has a 200-kilowatt vertical axis design meant for on-site power generation. I assume this is for CGE’s WindStor design, an example of which was installed this summer in Ishpeming, MI. The DOE hopes the grant will move the technology closer to mass production.

Northern Power Systems is working on a 450-kilowatt turbine, about twice the size of the largest turbine it has been manufacturing. NPS generators, thus far, have used a system based on a direct-drive permanent magnet synchronous generator, and I assume this bigger model will also. The big news here is that NPS will be able to use the DOE grant to leverage $10 million in private investments that will be used to complete design work and develop a prototype in 18 months.

Research will focus on a two-blade turbine at Texas Tech. Although the two-blade approach runs a little counter to conventional wisdom (at least in practice) about turbine performance and efficiency, investigators at the school and partnering businesses think its worth digging deeper. “We think the two-bladed design may be more practical for offshore wind environment,” says David L. Miller, vice chancellor of TTU’s Office of Technology Commercialization.. “We think it may ultimately have a higher generation capacity and be less prone to failure.” He said the mid-size turbine project will provide valuable data that ultimately will be used for scaling up the size of the turbines.

Miller, who is also chair of the new National Institute for Renewable Energy, attributes much of the interest in two-bladed turbines to the research of Andy Swift, director of the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at TTU.

Miller revealed that Carter Wind Energy and General Dynamics have agreed to act as partners in the project. Carter has already produced 300-kilowatt windmills with twin 50-foot rotors that use a gin pole, guy wire and pulley system that allows the entire rotor/turbine/mast unit to be raised (or lowered) without a crane (see below).


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