Aquanis has won a $1-million Phase II SBIR grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a new blade coating that reduces the damage to wind-turbine blades caused by lightning. The award comes on the heels of a $3.5-million grant Aquanis received last year from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), to develop a system to enable wind turbines to react more quickly to changes in the wind.
Lightning damage to wind turbines is one of the largest expenses for wind-farm operators. The industry is estimated to lose hundreds of millions of dollars annually to damage caused by lightning, and the problem is expected to worsen in the coming years.
“Wind is an increasingly important part of the nation’s energy mix, but the industry will only succeed if the cost of producing wind energy continues to come down,” said Thorne Sparkman, managing director of the Slater Technology Fund. “Aquanis’ technology holds the promise of helping achieve this goal by reducing operating and maintenance costs and minimizing turbine downtime.”
Aquanis is pioneering a new, inexpensive coating system that will lessen the damage to wind-turbine blades caused by lightning by promoting the formation of ionization channels over the surface of the turbine blades, providing a safe external path for lightning energy to reach the ground and preventing damaging blade punctures.
Aquanis was founded in 2015 with a vision of reducing the cost of producing wind energy by improving the aerodynamic performance of wind turbines. Originally backed with $550,000 in seed capital from the Slater Technology Fund, and UPC Capital Ventures, LLC, the venture capital division of the UPC Energy Group, Aquanis has gone on to raise an additional $5 million from state and federal sources to advance its technology, including a critical early-stage grant from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation.
“This blade coating breakthrough is an outgrowth of the research we have been doing as part of the development of our smart blade technology,” said Aquanis Founder and CEO Neal Fine. “We are thrilled that the DOE has recognized the promise it holds for solving one of the big challenges of the wind energy industry, and has provided us with the resources we need to bring it to the market.”
Aquanis will be presenting its technology at the Rhode Island Clean Energy Innovation Summit & Offshore Wind Forum being held in Newport, R.I., on July 18, 2019.