The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) and is accepting applications for the DOE Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) for distributed wind.

Managed by NREL on behalf of DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office, the CIP awards cost-shared subcontracts and technical support to manufacturers of small and medium-sized wind turbines.

“The Competitiveness Improvement Project is designed to make wind energy cost competitive with other distributed energy resources,” said Robert Marlay, Director of DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office. “Since 2012, this project has helped small U.S. businesses develop new and innovative distributed wind technology through financial support, the expertise of NREL researchers, and access to the lab’s research facilities.”

Competitiveness Improvement Project technologies.
The Competitiveness Improvement Project (CIP) is making it possible for companies like Intergrid to develop innovative distributed wind technology, such as this modular power inverter for small wind systems.
Photos by Robert Wills, Intergrid LLC

One example of the impact the CIP is making on U.S. distributed wind and small businesses is Intergrid, which developed a modular power inverter for wind turbines under 25 kilowatts (kW) to meet updated grid integration requirements, while adding storage capabilities for resilient back-up power.

Though the expanding market for solar power has resulted in technical advancements for solar power inverters, significant differences in the technical requirements between wind and solar technologies make solar inverters suboptimal for use with distributed wind systems. The Intergrid inverter—which is expected to be manufactured by Matric Limited of Seneca, Pennsylvania, under a 2020 CIP manufacturing innovation award—fills a gap in the distributed wind industry by delivering an interconnection-code-compliant inverter designed for use with wind technology that is compatible with other distributed energy technologies.

“Intergrid’s new 25-kW wind inverter began as a concept and has now moved to the certification stage, thanks to the CIP,” said NREL distributed wind project lead Ian Baring-Gould. “In collaboration with industry, Intergrid developed this concept that meets all of the future interconnection standards for distributed wind and can, based on work being started this year, be deployed on wind turbines with capacity up to hundreds of kilowatts because of its modularity. It’s truly a game changer for the distributed wind industry.”

This latest RFP focuses on projects that:

  • Develop new, innovative distributed wind concepts
  • Transform and optimize existing designs for lower cost, increased energy production, and expanded capabilities, such as advanced grid support to enhance power system resiliency
  • Conduct turbine and component testing to national standards to verify performance and safety
  • Develop advanced manufacturing processes to reduce hardware costs.

The CIP is designed to accommodate small businesses in different phases of the product development process—from pre-prototype paper design through commercial test unit. Companies are encouraged to apply to the topic area that best aligns with their technology readiness.

View the RFP for more information.

About the CIP

DOE’s Competitiveness Improvement Project supports U.S. leadership in distributed wind technologies. Managed by NREL on behalf of DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office, the CIP supports innovation to advance wind energy as a low-cost distributed generation technology option by:

  • Reducing technology costs
  • Supporting product innovation
  • Optimizing wind turbines for distributed applications
  • Ensuring that distributed energy consumers have wind technology options that are certified for performance and quality
  • Developing advanced manufacturing processes to reduce hardware costs
  • Supporting the development designs for specific market applications, such emergency response
  • Expanding the compatibility of wind technology with other distributed energy resources for use in hybrid applications
  • Developing capabilities to provide grid support.

Through a competitive process, the CIP awards cost-shared subcontracts and NREL technical support to manufacturers and developers of small- and medium-sized wind turbine systems, expanding where distributed wind technologies can be used to provide local energy services, either paired with other renewable technologies such as solar and battery storage to increase resilience, or simply to reduce local energy costs. 

Since 2012, NREL has awarded 44 subcontracts to 23 companies under the CIP, totaling $10.62 million of DOE funding while leveraging $5.41 million in additional private-sector investment.

For further information about the project, visit NREL’s website or download the DOE factsheet.