WASHINGTON, DC – As more communities seek to harness the benefits of wind energy, and as wind turbine blades become bigger and more expensive, one Rhode Island company that is leading research into new technological advancements to improve effectiveness, durability, and performance of wind turbine blades is getting a major boost toward making its technology more viable.

Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed announced that Aquanis, Inc. of East Greenwich will receive a new $3.5 million federal grant to further research of “Active Aerodynamic Load Control for Wind Turbines.”

The $3,515,113 federal grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), will help develop advanced plasma actuators and controls to reduce aerodynamic loads on wind turbine blades, facilitating the next generation of larger (20+ MW), smarter wind turbines. 

ARPA-E is a federal program that specializes in funding high-risk, high-reward projects in renewable energy and efficiency that have shown promise, but are still too nascent to be commercialized.

Aquanis, Inc.’s technology contains no moving parts, instead using purely electrical plasma actuators on the blade that set the adjacent air in motion when powered.  This system can change the lift and drag forces on wind turbine blades, to reduce blade mechanical fatigue and enable the design of larger and cheaper blades.  Currently effective at laboratory scales, Aquanis plans to improve the plasma actuator capabilities and field test a much larger prototype system on a wind turbine.

“I commend Aquanis, Inc. for winning this competitive grant and for its 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,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.

In 2007, Senator Reed voted to establish the ARPA-E program within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) modeled after the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – the agency credited with such innovations as GPS and computer networking.  Reed helped provide the first appropriations for ARPA-E in 2009 and has continued to support the program, which President Trump has recently tried to eliminate. 

This year, Senator Reed helped include $366 million – a $13 million increase – for ARPA-E in a 2019 Appropriations package that was signed into law in September.

In addition to this ARPA-E award, Brown University is currently using a $3.8 million ARPA-E grant for “Leading Edge,” a project to design and build new energy systems that turn the energy of the tides into clean, renewable electricity.

This latest federal grant builds on previous federal investments into cutting-edge research by Aquanis, Inc.  Earlier this year, Aquanis received a $150,000 grant from DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.  And in 2016, Aquanis was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Phase I SBIR grant of $224,969 for the development and testing of a device to improve the efficiency and extend the service life of utility-scale wind turbines.

Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a total of $98 million in funding for 40 new projects as part of this round of ARPA-E funding.