Nation Leads Wind Energy Production and Innovation

May 11, 2016

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Letter from the Wind Program Director

This spring edition of the Wind Program Newsletter comes at the juncture of two important events for the wind industry: the 1-year anniversary of the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Program’s historic Wind Vision Report and the start of American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2016.

We have quite a bit to celebrate this spring. Statistics released at the end of 2015 indicated that the United States was once again the world’s leading wind energy producer—reaching 8.6 gigawatts for the year—pushing the country’s cumulative total past 74 gigawatts, and generating enough electricity from wind to power 17.5 million typical U.S. homes!

This is great news. And yet, with wind providing approximately 5% of the nation’s electrical demand, we still have a long way to go toward reaching the findings in the Wind Vision Report for our domestic wind industry: to supply 10% of the nation’s electrical demand in 2020, 20% in 2030, and 35% in 2050. Guided by the Wind Vision, the Energy Department’s investments are aimed at improving the performance, lowering the costs, and accelerating the deployment of innovative wind power technologies.

One new example of innovation being deeply explored by the Energy Department is a three-dimensional printing technology, which promises to have far-reaching effects on how wind turbines and components are manufactured. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has partnered with Cincinnati Incorporated to develop a new additive manufacturing tool—the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine—which is 500 to 1,000 times faster and capable of printing polymer components 10 times larger than today’s industrial additive machines. The technology is also scalable, allowing us to make even larger components in the future. By applying 3-D printing to the manufacture of blade molds, it is possible to reduce costs and time associated with manufacturing, experiment with new capabilities, and improve design flexibility.

Driving innovation is also about cultivating our nation’s wind-energy workforce. An exciting and heartwarming demonstration of this takes place at AWEA WINDPOWER 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here, students from 12 teams participating in the U.S. Department of Energy 2016 Collegiate Wind Competition will showcase their ingenious turbine designs to wind industry leaders, manufacturers, and policy makers. The passion and potential of these amazing students—who are our next generation of industry leaders—is inspiring.

Thank you for joining me in celebrating the accomplishments we’re making together to promote the power of wind.

Sincerely,

José Zayas
Director, Wind and Water Power Technologies Office
@EnergyZayas