Aquanis receives $3.5M federal grant to further wind turbine research

PROVIDENCE – Aquanis Inc. of East Greenwich will receive a $3.5 million federal grant to further its research of “active aerodynamic load control for wind turbines,” Sen. Jack Reed announced Thursday.

The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which specializes in high-risk, high-reward projects in renewable energy and efficiency that have shown promise, but are not far along enough to be commercialized.

Aquanis is researching technology that contains no moving parts, but instead uses electrical plasma actuators on a blade that would set the adjacent air in motion when powered – which would have the effect of changing the lift and draft forces on wind turbine blades to reduce mechanical fatigue. It may also enable the design of larger and cheaper blades, Reed’s office said.

“Aquanis is thrilled to have been chosen for this ARPA-E award,” said Aquanis founder and CEO Neal Fine in a statement. “We are committed to helping the wind industry continue to improve turbine technology, which is key to reducing the cost of wind energy and increasing the amount of energy we get from this clean and renewable source.  Our selection by ARPA-E confirms that we are working with a great team on an important and challenging problem.”

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The company will use the funding to improve its plasma actuator capabilities and to field test a much larger prototype system on a wind turbine.The design could facilitate the next generation of larger wind turbines, which it said were 20 megawatt or higher turbines, according to Reed’s office.

“I commend Aquanis Inc. for winning this competitive grant and for their innovative efforts to improve wind turbines and reduce the cost of wind energy. This federal funding will help accelerate research into smart blade technology that could help power our clean energy future and help grow jobs and opportunities here in Rhode Island,” stated Reed.

For the ARPA-E funded project, Aquanis will lead a team of researchers that includes the University of Texas at Dallas, based in Richardson, Texas, Sandia National Laboratory, based in Albuquerque, N.M., and  TPI Composites Inc., based in Warren.

“The proliferation of wind power has been a bright spot on the energy landscape, but we have a long way to go,” said Thorne Sparkman, managing director of the Slater Technology Fund, which provided seed funding to Aquanis. “Slater is proud to be supporting Aquanis in its quest to enable the next generation of turbine designs.”

Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor. Email him at Bergenheim@PBN.com.