Nordic Wind Power is receiving a federal loan guarantee. This will ensure that the company has the funds to develop its wind turbine technology. The company’s main claim to fame is its two blade wind turbines. Looking at the picture on Nordic’s home page, their turbines require much less material than the turbines of competitor companies, which means that their cost of production is a lot less. A smaller turbine design also has a lower visual footprint, which is a great advantage when homeowners in wealthy communities block the installation of wind turbines because they are afraid the turbines will decrease their land value.
The two blade system provides other advantages. A design with less material is also lighter. This means that a less powerful crane is necessary for the installation, and reduces other construction costs. The 70 meter tall tower will also cause less damage if it falls down, although hopefully that won’t happen. According to Nordic, a two blade wind turbine also produces less noise than a three blade turbine. I’m guessing that this design also creates less interference with other signals. A large wind farm in Oregon was blocked for months because the Air Force was concerned about interference with its radar project, so this technology might also provide advantages in that area.
According to Green Tech Media, wind turbines have a weakness because they do not provide a spinning reserve. This isn’t an insurmountable flaw. Another project with federal loan guarantees is Beacon’s flywheel system which stores energy using the spinning flywheels. Combining these projects is a great idea. Renewable power generation will require the use of several methods to provide power which is as reliable as oil and gas. A combination of cost efficient wind turbines and flywheels to store power and distribute it over a period of time provides great advantages for any city that wants to create clean energy. The government is funding Beacon Power’s smart grid, Nordic’s wind turbines, and Solyndra’s solar panels at the same time, and a combination of these energy generators and power storage systems creates synergies that will make these projects cost efficient methods of generating electricity.
The Recovery Act is funding projects, including a smart grid which Beacon Power is setting up. The company headquarters is in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, and the company’s technology will operate around the country, including Chicago and California. According to the California Energy Commission, the Beacon Power technology focuses on creating a flywheel storage system for an energy grid. This method stores energy in the motion of the spinning wheels, allowing a generation system to provide power only when necessary.
The California project is a demonstration of Beacon Power’s technology and it has a capacity of a hundred kilowatts. Beacon’s other projects are much larger. The project under construction in Chicago, has a much greater capacity of 20 Megawatts. It is necessary to design a smart grid with a high capacity to make power generation systems such as wind turbines able to reliably distribute power throughout an area over time.
Beacon Power is also building a 20 Megawatt storage system in Stephentown, New York, and this is the project that is receiving $43 million under the Department of Energy loan guarantee program. Beacon also received $24 million to set up a smart grid in Chicago.
The flywheel technology does not require the usage of wind or solar power to save energy. Beacon’s system can also reduce the amount of energy that an oil, gas, or coal generation plant needs to regulate power supplies, which also reduces the amount of smog and particulate released. According to Sandia National Laboratories, the flywheel technology reduces conventional power usage from petroleum sources by about a percent. This technology will start paying off even before the wind turbines and other renewable generators are installed around the country.
Solyndra is a Bay Area company that is in the news for manufacturing solar power modules. The Department of Energyis guaranteeing a $535 million loan to support its solar power technology. According to the Department of Energy, this is the first project that the federal government is backing under the Department of Energy loan guarantee program. As with the other projects, this requires an equity investment from the company itself. The federal government is providing 73% of the funds so the company has to provide the other 27%, which means that Solyndra has to put up $198 million, a much larger initial investment than most of the renewable energy projects that the government supports. According to the Department of Energy, the next two companies receiving loans under the loan guarantee program are Beacon and Nordic.
This large project is receiving great amounts of government attention. Senator Boxer supports this project since it will bring jobs to Fremont as well as potentially providing a great deal of power from the solar panels the plant manufactures over its lifetime. Senator Boxer has toured the plant and photos are available on her website.
Senator Boxer’s website states that the plant may provide up to 15 GW of power during its lifetime and the White House blog claims up to 7 GW during the first phase of construction, which is what the loan is designed to finance. Later phases of construction will be supported by the sales of the solar panels. President Obama scheduled a May 26 visit to tour the Solyndra facility in Fremont.
Solyndra also has operations in Italy and is installing solar panels throughout Europe. Solyndra and the Italian company Enerqos are setting up solar panels on houses in Italy and have installed these generators as part of a project in Villa Dossola. The major technological advantage of Solyndra’s photovoltaic cells is that their cylindrical design allows them to capture solar energy from any angle, allowing efficiency improvements. The solar cell design provides easy installation, and according to Enerqos in the press release, better resistance to wind damage and low weight. The company is installing these solar cells on roofs so these traits are important.