After filing my first wind energy patent several years ago, I remember
waiting for the phone to ring. I was expecting a call from NREL:
knowing that they were a federal agency charged with leaving no stone
unturned in the quest for improved wind turbines etc., I figured that
they must, as part of the federal system, closely monitor patent
applications, to stay abreast of breakthroughs in wind energy. I
expected a call something like this: "Wow Doug this is a verrrry
interesting new way to look at wind energy you've introduced, that
solves so many problems simultaneously - congratulations and what can
we do to help?" or even "We see the solutions you've worked so hard to
reveal and would like to help you develop this particular one."
Well the phone never stops ringing, and sometimes it IS NREL, but they
never call to say they want to explore or develop any new technology.
Mostly they ask me to apply for more events and grants, and sometimes
they ask for fees to help fund them.
One aspect I thought they might find interesting was that I showed you
can get unlimited power at any diameter, and that Betz is left far in
the dust, with regard to the normal hamstrung interpretation of Betz,
that power is strictly limited with regard to diameter.
Another aspect I thought they might find interesting was a solution to
a most persistent problem of excessive blade mass, tooling costs, and
transport issues for the giant blades: that with a viable way to
combine the power of many rotors, any power level could be achieved
using rotors of any diameter, with small rotors gathering 400 watts per
pound, that is an order of magnitude improvement in use of blade
My training in science told me that "order of magnitude" improvements
were hugely significant. I was taught that scientists were smart, well
trained, and could easily recognize such advantages on first
principles. Indeed, I was taught that recognizing such first principles
was the main job of science.
Then again I was also taught that science is normally completely
unresponsive to breakthroughs, and that the old guard had to die off
before new knowledge was actually recognized and assimilated - that is
I thought that introducing a new type of floating offshore turbine that
promised to solve many of the permitting and foundation issues with
offshore wind energy would at least get a notice.
I thought that introducing the concept of helium/hydrogen-filled blades
for turbines that were naturally buoyant, needing no tower might get a
few scientists excited.
I thought that showing how to suspend turbines between landforms, using
a single moving part, to eliminate the towers, simplify the turbines,
and expand the range of wind energy might turn a few heads in the
I thought that a new type of Darrieus rotor that solved the persistent
problem of holding the blades against centrifugal force by weaving them
into a cylindrical mesh might at least be noticed.
I thought that showing how this could be implemented across canyons
etc., whereby an entire 1 mW+ turbine could be extruded from a small
pultrusion die might qualify as a breakthrough in official scientific
I thought that showing how to harness ocean currents using a fraction
of the material would be jumped on, rather than seeing companies
wasting millions of dollars breaking off too-large blades in the Hudson
River and Orkney Islands, without a viable technology to this day.
I thought all these agencies and scientists were interested in
solutions. I thought they wanted to build turbines. I thought they were
Then I attended my first AWEA Windpower convention and started to see
what was really going on. I remember the reason I was so excited to
attend the AWEA show: I knew NREL would be hosting an exhibit booth,
and I COULDN'T WAIT to meet all the NREL wind energy scientists, and
have long and fascinating discussions about all the possibities - all
the new machines we could build, all the problems that could be so
easily solved with new ways of doing things! I was so excited!!!
So I started walking the exhibit floor to find the great NREL booth. I
walked and walked, and didn't see any NREL booth. Finally I had to look
it up. Oh, I guess I had walked by it several times and not noticed it.
The NREL booth was deserted: a couple of card tables and an Air 403
turbine on a little stand. A few pamphlets at an unmanned booth - no
scientists to talk to, no real displays, no talk of any progress, no
proudly displayed results of latest research projects. No, I had found
the crappiest booth at the whole show, a booth unmanned most of the
time, except once in a while staffed by a nice lady who seemed like she
should be working at an elementary school.
I had found the one booth with absolutely nothing to say to anyone, and
therefore nobody there to say it. I had found "The Wizard of Oz" - the
man behind the curtain, and that man was a woman, when there was anyone
there at all, and she knew nothing of the technology and was simply
there to be an occasional warm body in the booth, to let people know
that there was nobody there they could talk to, should they ask, - and
why would there be? From their viewpint, there was nothing to talk
about anyway, since no progress was likely. Wow, it was far beyond my
lowest expectations, and it has gone downhill from there ever since.
My latest info is that ARPA-E considers wind energy a mature technology, and are not interested in wind energy research.
I've been asked to submit proposals many times, have complied, and it
was a waste of time. Since I am the only one pursuing these ideas, the
grant proposal process has only served to stop my progress it its
Every year I am invited to apply to present at the NREL Industry Growth
Forum. Every year I dutifully drop everything to apply, and am
routinely refused on the basis that I do not have enough money behind
me, a good enough "business plan", etc.
I wonder, when in the field of science has a business plan been part of
a new scientific paradigm? Do these bureaucrats really expect that one
person could file all those patents, apply for all those grants, build
all those prototypes, make a living manufacturing and selling turbines
(just to prove it is viable), and still have time to formulate the
perfect business plan?
What is the point of saying you will match tech people with business
people, then asking the tech people for the business plan? Is not that
the job of the business people?
The answer is that they are not looking for raw answers. They are not
looking for scientific knowledge that can be developed into new
industries. They are looking for all the work to be already done, by
large companies with deep pockets. They are so used to "no results",
that they see new ideas as nothing but a risk that could tarnish their
reputation. The best way to keep their reputation intact is to do
nothing, that way nothing can go wrong. They can always fall back on
how many years of schooling they have.
Alternatively they will entartain lame ideas that can never pan out,
based on easily-discernible first principles, if the companies are
willing to waste millions of dollars on feel-good paperwork and false
I just want to point out to these agencies:
I have spent probably a year of time applying for grants, submitting
concept papers, etc., for patented and patent-pending solutions I have
developed in the clean energy field.
By any account, I have invented many new types of wind turbine that
could be said to solve many of the persistent problems that have
plagued wind energy.
Now there could be two courses to choose from:
1. Develop everything myself and don't waste time talking about it.
2. Believe that these agencies who solicit for proposals are truly interested in anything new.
I mistakenly chose option 2 for the first several years, believing in
the process of recognition of scientific principles by scientists, and
peer review, that I learned in University: that an innovator would
propose a concept, prove the concept, then scientists could
independently verify the results, acknowledge the specific new
principle, extrapolate the implications, and then recommend the next
step, whereby all of society society benefits from employing these
What I have found instead is an impenetrable bureaucracy at every level
that sucks up all the money before it could ever be spent on anything
useful, and a review process that is far more responsive to
politically-correct appearances, formalities, and sheer volume of
paperwork than to new ideas or actual solutions. The technical
reviewers are without imagination or vision, and cannot see beyond the
I see what was once millions of dollars, turn into billions and now
trillions, supposedly earmarked for clean energy, with the clear
solutions and tantalizing new paradigms I have spent so many years
developing completely ignored by all official circles.
After all the propaganda you hear about the relentless quest for clean
energy, know that with all the patented solutions I have offered, I
have never had the slightest bit of interest from any of these
agencies. Every proposal, every phone call, every demonstration has
fallen on its face. I even spent weeks to place a 4-rotor machine with
full instrumentation in front on an NREL scientist, and as kind and
forward-thinking as he was to actually show up, he in the end literally
refused to look at the instruments, saying simply "I believe you" and
it was plain to see he was not in the least interested in a 5-foot
diameter turbine making 3000 watts at 40 mph.
After all the hype and emotion you may feel after listening to a
speeches full of platitudes and generalities with regard to advancing
clean energy, realize that this individual inventor, for one, has had
progress stopped in its tracks by the false promises of interest and
curiosity of these agencies. They simply couldn't care less about any
new ways of harnessing wind energy, let alone ocean energy. They do not
seem to want to follow the simple math that says gearboxes can be
eliminated, and blade material can be reduced by an order of magnitude.
Instead what we have is a "head in the sand" refusal to even look at the potential of any of these new ideas.
I just want to let the GOOD and ASTUTE people at these agencies, who
are probably similarly frustrated, I am not wasting one more minute of
my time proposing anything to you. The solutions are published. The
place to find them is in the U.S. Patent system. Or just ask me. The
ball is in your court. I am no longer accepting the passive nature of
the grant proposal process, where these agencies with their millions
take no proactive action to find solutions, but instead try to
endlessly throw the ball into the innovator's court.
My opinion is that these agencies have the responsibility to
proactively categorize the possible solutions as published in the
literature, and decide for themselves, based on first principles, what
ideas are worth developing. They need to use their scientific training
to analyze ideas on first principles, discern what could lead to
solutions, and proactively identify and seek to engage the innovators.
The system they have now, in my humble opinion, is nothing more than an endless excuse to do nothing.
Look at how many millions of dollars have been spent, over how many years, especially recently, in the quest for clean energy.
Now show me the result:
How many new machines have you seen them produce in the last 30 years?
How many new configurations have they explored? What have they done
that was not going to be done anyway without them?
How much of the grant process is really just window-dressing: companies
knowing they are dragging NREL along, rather than being helped, but
want to be able to tout the "official recognition"?
Once I found out how easy wind turbines are to build, I was even more
appalled. One could fabricate new types of turbines in one's sleep.
Using an industrial belt sander, for example, one can turn out great
blades of any diameter in a few minutes. What is their excuse? A set of
blades that takes me an hour to fabricate would be a quarter-million
dollar project for NREL, and take 2 years rather than an hour.
All I can say is this:
Fool me once, shame on you...
fool me twice, and umm...er...
or gosh darn it, well George Bush almost had it right.
See? That is the federal government for you: Go as high as you want and
they can't even string a few words together correctly, much less
develop any new technology.
Their reasons turn into their excuses: The National Redundant Excuse
Laboratories: They invite a technology person to their "Industry Growth
Forum", ostensibly to mate them with financial and business people,
then refuse to follow through, with the excuse that the technology
person did not have a good enough business plan.
There seems to be no provision for someone simply coming up with the
technology. The idea that some people might specialize in the
technology and thereby not have to time, skills, nor resources to also
have the perfect business plan does not seem to occur to them.
It is one more example of what I have noticed since getting into this
field: Whatever people say they will do, they will eventually ask you
to do instead. Even at the highest levels. And even then they can't
participate, even if I DO offer to do ALL the work.
If they say they are looking for technology and matching up business
people with tech people, they can be counted on to instead ask the
technology person for the business plan. Then the business people want
to turn into inventors, and you can spend all your time to bring them
up to speed on the ABC's of wind energy "No we do not want to pursue
another duct, shroud, or drag-based design".
Look at ARPA-E: They asked for "concept papers" rather than full
"proposals", to "save the time" of innovators. Then in response, they
send out 3500 form letters saying they were overwhelmed by 3500
"concept papers", and can scarcely even respond to them all. They say
it is "a learning experience" for them... How warm and fuzzy. Reminds
me of the NREL booth at the AWEA shows: The lights are on (powered by
fossil fuels) but nobody is home. And they say that their response to
the concept papers is not binding. You can still submit a full
proposal. So why the concept paper? Not a waste of time? In this effort
to NOT waste innovators' time, they waste 3500 innovators' time. For
their own "learning experience"...
Let's see, if it cost innovators $10,000 per concept paper, that is
$35,000,000 of innovators' funds wasted. Hey wait a minute, that is the
same amount total they were going to award! So before they have awarded
one cent, they have already wasted more of our time/money than they
plan on awarding. Here's what I am asking: Stay tuned and monitor the
results of ARPA-E. Let me know when you see ANY viable technology
emerge from all those millions - er billions...
Anyway, this year I have learned my lesson. I would not waste one drop
of ink or one second's time applying to present at an NREL event
anymore. I want to say: The ball is in YOUR court and I suggest you
live up to your hype. I am glad to help. I am here for you. But you
have to be proactive and participate. You will have to contact me - I
am not trying anymore from my end, I'm going to do it without you,
because it is not money that is needed, so much as a little attention
to detail and a little inspiration, which all the policies and
procedures do nothing but sap.
I do think there are people in these agencies who feel the same way I
do and want to change things so we really DO move forward into a clean
energy future. I welcome your participation.
That's all I want to say and thanks for your attention, and for taking the time to read this.
Selsam Innovations / Superturbine Inc. / USWINDLABS
2600 Porter Ave. Unit B
Fullerton, CA 92833