This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 17, 2002

DOE Grants Support Carbon-Fiber Research for Wind Power

Two $100,000 grants recently awarded by DOE will go toward investigations of the use of carbon fibers for two major wind turbine components: the towers and the blades.

Wind turbine towers are typically made of steel, but PYRAmatrix Structures, Inc. plans to develop taller, lighter towers made of carbon fibers, fiberglass, or a combination of the two. By using a unique lattice structure in the composite materials, the company claims it can reduce tower costs for a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine by 37 percent while cutting the weight by 96 percent. For a 5-megawatt wind turbine, a 511-foot steel tower would weigh more than one million pounds and would cost more than $3 million; PYRAmatrix claims that its composite towers would weigh only 30,000 pounds and would cost about $1.4 million. For now, the company will use its grant to focus on a tower for a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine. See the PYRAmatrix press release.

Another grant went to Global Energy Concepts, LLC, which will use the funds to develop technology for the production of wind turbine blades from carbon fibers. Wind blades are usually produced from fiberglass, but carbon fiber technology could allow innovative blade designs that could lower wind energy costs at low wind speeds. The grant was announced by U.S. Representative Jay Inslee, who serves Washington's 1st Congressional District.

The two grants were awarded through DOE's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. DOE's recent SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer awards totaled $25 million and went to 187 small businesses in 32 states. See the DOE press release.