Secretary Chu Announces New Investments in Cutting-Edge Wind Energy Research Facilities

October 15, 2009

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced new investments today in three university-led wind energy research facilities that will enhance the United States' leadership role in testing and producing the most advanced and efficient wind turbines in the world. The funding is from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the research will focus on improving both land-based and offshore wind generation.

"Wind power has the potential to provide 20% of our electricity and create hundreds of thousands of jobs," said Secretary Chu. "We need to position the United States as the clear leader in this industry, or watch these high-paying jobs go overseas. The investment we're making today will help ensure that America has both the talent and the technology we need to compete."

Three university-led consortia have been selected for up to $24 million to support university research and development programs to improve land-based and offshore wind turbine performance and reliability, as well as provide career educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in wind energy technologies. The three competitively selected, university-led projects will include partners from private industry, state and local governments, and other universities. The projects selected today support the Obama Administration's focus on increasing clean energy generation, while supporting the long-term development of a clean energy workforce.

Over the next two years, the university consortia will acquire utility-scale and prototype wind turbines that will provide researchers and students with hands-on R&D and educational opportunities on the most rapidly growing form of renewable energy in the country. Universities will also use the U.S. Department of Energy's funds to enhance their wind technology curricula and provide financial assistance to students for research fellowships and internships with the rapidly expanding wind industry.

The following projects have been selected for negotiation of an award:

Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, Illinois) – up to $8 million

The Institute will use this funding to install a test turbine, a GE 1.5 MW turbine, at an existing wind project owned by a consortium partner at Marseilles, Illinois. The university consortium's research and development plan includes advanced concepts for rotor control and drive train control, robust sensors for blades, and improved aero elastic models to improve wind turbine performance and reliability. The close proximity of the University's turbine to an existing wind farm provides an ideal opportunity to study turbine to turbine wake interaction, wind farm interaction, and wind energy efficiencies. The Institute will develop and offer wind energy courses addressing the technical, operational, social, and environmental aspects of wind energy in consultation with industry. Fellowships will be offered annually to masters and undergraduate students in wind energy engineering fields of study.

University of Maine (Orono, Maine) - up to $8 million

The University of Maine plans to design and deploy two 10 kW and one 100 kW floating offshore turbine prototypes. Two turbines will be located at the University of Maine's Deepwater Offshore Wind Test Site that will be located in a pre-selected site in state waters and one turbine will be operated at an offshore test site in the Isle of Shoals by the University of New Hampshire. The University consortium's research and development plan includes optimization of designs for floating platforms by evaluating: (1) options for using more durable, lighter, hybrid composite materials, (2) manufacturability, and (3) deployment logistics. Educational initiatives include a model Master of Science Degree in Renewable Energy and the Environment with a focus on deepwater wind energy and a new undergraduate minor in Deepwater Wind Energy. The University will target educational grants at individuals who are participating in Maine-based wind energy education and training in order to enter the job market.

University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minnesota) – up to $8 million

The University plans to install a new Siemens 2.3 MW turbine research facility at the University of Minnesota Outreach Research and Education (UMore) Park in Rosemount, Minnesota to study novel mechanical power transmission and electric generator systems. The University consortium's research and development plan includes active and passive flow control strategies to increase energy capture, broaden the operational envelope of the turbine, and reduce structural loads and fatigue. The University of Minnesota's turbine will be in close proximity to an existing wind farm, providing an opportunity to further validate and reinforce research findings regarding turbine wake interaction, wind farm interaction, and wind energy efficiencies. The educational initiatives include new graduate and undergraduate web-based course modules, programs specifically focused on wind power technologies and integration with other renewables, and student internships with industrial partners at consortium field sites.

Final award amounts are subject to final project negotiations. For more information about the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program, visit the Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program Web site.