The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) announced funding—including funds from the landmark Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)—for 15 small businesses working to accelerate wind energy Research and Development as part of DOE's Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These companies have each been selected to receive approximately $200,000 for Phase I SBIR awards. Overall, $72 million was awarded to small businesses across DOE to pursue scientific, clean energy, and climate research, development, and demonstration projects.

The sun shines down on a wind turbine.

SBIR and STTR programs are U.S. Government programs that intend to help small businesses conduct research and development.

Photo by Werner Slocum / NREL

A Cost-Effective 3D Wildlife Tracking System 

Wildlife Imaging Systems LLC (Hinesburg, VT) will employ a 3D tracking method for birds and bats impacted by the expansion of wind energy. This research project will create a camera-based wildlife tracking system to capture 3D tracks so that the size and flight speed of the animals can be determined. 

Bat Detection and Species Determination Around Wind Turbines Using AI 

Kitware Inc. (Clifton Park, NY) will use AI to better understand the impact of wind turbines on bat species. Wind energy’s growth can negatively impact resident and migratory bats, and compliance with applicable environmental laws is essential for sustainable development. Passive acoustic monitoring, or listening for sounds at different frequencies, is reliable for detecting bats, but classifying individual bat species from acoustic data poses challenges. Kitware will develop an open-source system to automate bat detection and species determination around wind turbines, advancing the field and supporting sustainable wind energy in the United States. 

CP+NMR Instrumentation and Tooling for Offshore Wind Geotechnical Investigations 

Vista Clara Inc. (Mukilteo, WA) will use BIL funding to address the growing need for instruments and tools to survey the seafloor before offshore wind installation, which is about to ramp up in the United States. Taking real-time measurements of the seafloor will take less time and effort than it would to collect samples and then conduct measurements in a laboratory.  

Deeply Embedded Ring Anchor System for Floating Offshore Wind Turbines 

Deep Anchor Solutions LLP (College Station, TX) will develop anchor systems for floating offshore wind turbines. The development of innovative anchor types is essential to achieving the full potential of floating offshore wind power. Novel anchor designs that use advanced materials and engineering concepts can provide increased strength and durability while reducing weight and cost. 

Electrochemical Recycling of Carbon Fiber Composite Wind Turbine Components 

Faraday Technology Inc. (Englewood, OH) will use BIL funding to develop best practices to recycle wind turbine components that contain carbon fiber composites. Developing recycling technologies for recovering low-cost, high-quality carbon fiber from composite waste can greatly increase the economic value from this waste while supporting new markets for lightweight composite materials. This project will develop innovative electrochemical technology for recycling carbon fiber composites to address emerging waste burdens of end-of-life carbon fiber composite waste while enabling the commercialization of carbon fiber recycling. 

Fabricated Tension-Leg for Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Platforms

Willamette Technical Fabricators (Portland, OR) will improve the fabrication of floating offshore wind turbine platforms. Using robots for welding tasks can reduce the time it takes to create floating offshore wind turbine platforms. Also, using robots to fabricate floating offshore wind turbine platforms will reduce the cost for manufacturing in America, create clean technology jobs, and improve the quality and reliability of the manufactured products.

Floating Platform for Cost-Effective Airborne Wind Energy Offshore

Windlift, Inc. (Durham, NC) will design a cost-effective, floating offshore wind platform for an airborne wind energy system. Supply chains, the lack of necessary infrastructure, and high costs threaten the economic viability of large offshore wind projects. This project will design a floating platform with anchoring and mooring specifically for airborne wind energy to accelerate the adoption of wind energy and reduce costs for consumers. 

High-Performance Small Wind Turbine Blade for Mass Production

Bergey Windpower Co. (Norman, OK) will develop advanced high-performance blades for American-made small wind turbines for residential, farm, and small business applications. The new blade design will enable mass production and will lower costs significantly. 

Innovative Keel-Plate Quick Connector for Floating Platform Mooring and Cables

Triton Anchor LLC (Chelmsford, MA) will use BIL funding to develop quick connectors for floating offshore wind platform mooring and cables. Triton Anchor’s innovative quick connection mooring and cable system for floating wind platforms advances the state-of-the-art with quick, safe, ecologically responsible, and cost-effective disconnection and connection of floating offshore wind turbines with their subsea infrastructure. The system will reduce the number of carbon-polluting vessels, potential labor-related accidents, and costs to ratepayers when performing maintenance of floating offshore wind turbines.

Low-Cost Concrete Environmentally Friendly Torpedo Anchors for Floating Offshore Wind

RCAM Technologies Inc. (Boulder, CO) will use BIL funding to develop low-cost, high-performance concrete torpedo anchors for floating offshore wind technology. Manufacturing and installing seafloor anchors that keep turbines in place contributes greatly to the cost of floating offshore wind. To make anchoring less costly, RCAM Technologies will develop a lower-cost concrete version of an anchor technology used in the oil and gas industry (torpedo anchors) that embed in the sea floor like very large darts dropped from a ship. 

Low-Cost Lidar for Efficient Wind Energy Production

Boulder Nonlinear Systems, Inc. (Lafayette, CO) will investigate ways to produce low-cost lidar, which is used to measure wind speeds. To further improve the efficiency of wind turbines and help reduce the cost of clean energy, meet the growing demand for electric power, and reduce the need to increase or expand wind power plants, Boulder Nonlinear Systems will economically enable deployment of wind lidar sensors that allow wind turbines to optimize energy production.

Rapid X-Ray for Blade Manufacturing Quality Control and In-Service Maintenance

WEI7 LLC (Onalaska, TX) will improve wind turbine blade manufacturing. The use of powerful X-ray inspection will allow for rapid, nondestructive inspection of wind turbine rotor blades both in the factory and in the field to eliminate defects during manufacturing and to detect early-stage damage during operation. This will significantly improve the reliability of wind turbines and thereby reduce the cost of wind energy. 

R&D Addressing Wind Industry’s Grand Challenges for Remote, Complex Terrain

Carter Wind Turbines LLC (Wichita Falls, TX) will address the wind industry’s challenges for remote and complex terrain. The evolutionary, lightweight, flexible, and versatile CWT-36VS-60T wind turbine will improve the design and affordability for access to underserved markets facing high fossil energy costs where the location or terrain does not allow the installation of modern large wind turbines. This research and development will advance innovations on multiple components and subsystems to reduce the levelized cost of energy for wind turbines in remote and rugged environments.

R&D on Wind Turbine Blades that Automatically Change Shape

Gulf Wind Technology, (Avondale, LA) will use BIL funding for the ‘Passive Loadshedding Trailing Edge’ project to conduct research and development on wind turbine blades that change shape automatically to reduce the stress on turbine blades. Larger blades are subject to increasingly dynamic operating conditions, including from hurricanes. This project will investigate on-blade load management techniques to reduce turbine costs. 

Wide-Area, Rapid Vacuum Bag Leak Detection for Composite Wind Turbine Blade

PD3 Technologies, Inc. (Huntington Beach, CA) will identify and investigate vacuum bag leaks for composite wind turbine blades. Composite wind turbine blades must be cured under vacuum during the manufacturing process, and leaks in the vacuum bags used lead to added cost, including delays and repairs. To reduce manufacturing costs, PD3’s solution uses a novel sensor film that provides a visual indication of vacuum leaks so they can be immediately detected and corrected.