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A Pika Energy wind turbine is the newest addition to the Department of Energy's headquarters lobby in Washington, D.C. | Photo by Mike Mueller, The Hannon Group
Unlike utility-scale wind turbines that can have blades longer than a football field, this Pika Energy T701, three-bladed, 1.5-kilowatt turbine is an example of an affordable small-wind system option to offset energy usage. | Photo courtesy Pika Energy
The lobby at the Energy Department’s (DOE) headquarters building in Washington, D.C. features a mini-museum filled with displays of scientific and technical progress. As energy technology continues moving forward, it’s important to keep these displays current. This week, a Pika Energy T701 1.5-kilowatt (kW) turbine, manufactured in Maine, is the newest addition to the Forrestal Building’s lobby. It replaces the Skystream wind turbine developed by Southwest WindPower in collaboration with DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Unlike utility-scale wind turbines that can have blades longer than a football field, this one is small enough to fit in our lobby. An example of distributed wind—a cost-effective system that generates electricity for on- or near-site consumption—the Pika turbine is an affordable small-wind system option to offset energy usage.
Pika Energy received funding through the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office’s Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP), one of many ways we support clean energy development in the United States. By focusing on system development and testing, CIP funding helps small and mid-size businesses improve their system designs and undertake certification testing to show they have met performance and safety requirements.
Conventional blades are among the most expensive components of a wind turbine, requiring significant manual craftsmanship to achieve aerodynamic performance, structural integrity, and low weight. With DOE support, Pika Energy developed a tooling design and cooling process that produces blades using injection-molded plastic, allowing mass manufacturing at a lower cost. While conventional hand-laid composite blades cost over $1,000 each, Pika’s injection-molded blades cost under $50.
CIP funding provided by DOE and technical support provided by NREL were key to enabling the company to develop and test its manufacturing process, reducing manufacturing costs of its wind turbine by more than $3,000. With investments topping $8 billion in 2014 alone, wind power continues to boom in the United States and is on track to become a strong part of our nation’s electricity-generation portfolio.
According to the 2014 Distributed Wind Market Report, U.S. turbines in distributed applications reached a cumulative installed capacity of more than 906 megawatts–enough to power more than 168,000 average American homes. Turbines used in these applications can range in size from a few hundred watts to multi-megawatts, and can help power remote, off-grid homes and farms, as well as local schools and manufacturing facilities.
If you visit Washington, D.C. in 2016, come by DOE’s Forrestal Building and see the Pika turbine for yourself. It represents a successful partnership between the government and private industry in pioneering new clean energy technologies that will transform our nation’s energy generation within our lifetimes.
For more information about this and other Wind Program funding opportunities, visit the Wind Program’s Financial Opportunities Web page.