The Department of Energy (DOE) last week said it would provide $93 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support further development of wind energy in the U.S., as well $100 million from the act for facility and infrastructure improvements at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the funds would leverage the DOE’s national laboratories, universities, and the private sector to help improve reliability and overcome key technical challenges for the wind industry.
About $45 million of these funds would be directed toward enhancing the government’s ability to support the wind industry through testing the performance and reliability of current and next-generation wind turbine drivetrain systems. The DOE said that this investment would deliver “dependable and cost effective hardware for utility scale wind turbines with over a 20 year design life.” That project is thought to help improve the country’s overall competitiveness in wind energy technology, lower capital costs of wind systems, and maintain a high level of wind energy capacity growth.
The DOE said it would make available $14 million to advance technology development in the private sector. That effort would improve the quality and use of lighter-weight, advanced materials for turbine blades, towers, and other components. Another area of emphasis will be process controls for lamination, blade finishing, trimming, grind, painting, materials handling, and inspection.
Of the remaining funds, $24 million would be poured into wind power research and development, granted to universities and to the industry to focus on wind energy challenges. The DOE said it would invest $10 million at its own National Wind Technology Center in Colorado and noted that, “Additionally, upgrades to the electrical distribution system will permit cost recovery of the power produced by two new utility-scale wind turbines being installed there for testing and evaluation.”
NREL will also receive $68 million for a research support facility, a project that would create the "nation’s most energy-efficient office building." Another $19.2 million would be used to buy solar and fuel cells to replace power at NREL purchased from utilities. The remaining $13.5 million would be directed to create a continuous process research and development capability to develop commercial-scale cellulose-to-ethanol technologies.