DOE Announces $30M Funding Opportunity for 3D Printed Wind Turbines

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The US Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a $30 million funding opportunity for projects involving wind turbines produced with additive manufacturing (AM). Submissions of project proposals are due March 23, 2023, by 5 PM ET.

In addition to concepts for AM wind turbine blades, as well as non-blade parts for wind turbines, the DOE’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office (AMMTO) is seeking proposals for a wide variety of advanced materials to use in printed wind turbines, particularly lightweight composites. The projects funded will support two other initiatives recently announced by the Biden administration: the Offshore Wind Supply Chain Roadmap, and the Floating Offshore Wind Shot.

COBOD printer at the world’s largest concrete printing facility, owned by GE Renewable Energy. Image courtesy of GE Renewable Energy

In a DOE press release about the $30 million funding opportunity, the US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, commented, “The wind sector has proven to be a reliable source of clean power for homes and businesses in a variety of geographic areas. Investing in next-generation materials that will lower the financial barriers to widespread deployment supports President Biden’s domestic manufacturing and clean energy goals.”

3D printed wind turbine blade made by Vestas on a Markforged platform. Image courtesy of Markforged

The fact that wind energy is the most widely used source of renewable power in the US means that accelerating digitalization and advanced manufacturing in wind supply chains will be especially crucial if the US is to meet the emissions targets recently set by the Biden administration, which include a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050. Wind supply chains are also notoriously chaotic, something that is only likely to be exacerbated the more that the US and China incite one another into committing petty acts of revenge.

As long as those acts of revenge remain mostly petty, they seem to be driving investment into comparatively benevolent areas by historical standards, especially renewable energy applications, as in the present example. The fact that, as things currently stand, China is essentially the sole controller of global wind and energy supply chains, is not good for the future of renewable energy. This is true even if only because China needs to be able to produce renewables for its own market, and cannot continue to produce for both itself and the rest of the world’s worst emitters, especially the US.

Aside from this, there is obviously a far greater payoff emissions wise, if every nation localizes as much of its own renewables infrastructure production as possible. Not only is there potential for doing this with AM, but it’s fairly far along relative to the rest of the state of AM applications for heavy industry. This means that building up the supply chains will happen so long as investments from the government continue to flow. The real wild card, on the other hand, which will determine how quick will be the buildup of renewable infrastructure in the US, lies in how rapid is the expansion of private investment into areas like manufacturing for wind energy.

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