Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, announced Thursday that the Energy Department has selected two Santa Barbara-area companies — Clipper Windpower of Carpinteria and Dehlsen Associates LLC of Santa Barbara — to receive more than $1 million over two years to advance next-generation designs for wind turbine drivetrains.

Drivetrains, which include a turbine’s gearbox and generator, are at the heart of the turbine and are responsible for producing electricity from the rotation of the blades. The advances in drivetrain technologies and configurations supported through these research and development projects will help the United States maintain its position as a global leader in wind energy technologies, support thousands of U.S. manufacturing, construction and planning jobs in a key renewable energy market, and reduce the cost of wind energy in the future.

“These federal funds will help two local companies perform cutting-edge research on projects that can be used to provide renewable electricity in communities across the country, which is crucial as we look to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels,” Capps said. “Wind and marine power hold enormous potential to help reach our nation’s clean energy goals, and today’s awards will play an important role in helping private industry bring these products to market, create jobs and improve our energy security.”

Clipper Windpower will develop and test a unique drivetrain design that enables increased serviceability over conventional gearboxes and is scalable to large-capacity turbines.

“The ability to quickly develop next generation wind turbine technology will strengthen our nation’s ability to compete in a market forecast to exceed $96 billion and deliver about 2 percent of the world’s electricity in 2011,” said Amir Mikhail, chief technology engineer at Clipper Windpower. “Investments like the U.S. DOE’s recent award of nearly $7.5 million to help develop next-generation products supports our nation’s green energy future, including green jobs, and brings America closer to having what it takes to compete as a world leader in the global wind energy sector.”

Dehlsen Associates LLC will design and test components of an innovative direct-drive concept. The proposed drivetrain configuration eliminates the need for gearboxes, power electronics, transformers and rare earth materials. The design may also be applicable to marine hydrokinetic — or ocean power — devices.

“Dehlsen Associates is both honored and excited about DOE’s support in developing a high-energy density drivetrain for our Aquantis technology and other renewable applications,” said Mauricio Quintana, president of Aquantis. “The development of this system will improve the competitive use of renewable resources and continue to position the country at the forefront of sustainable technology. It is through this type of innovation, that a high growth and sustainable industry will be created for current and future generations.”

These early research and development projects will focus on reducing the cost of wind energy by increasing component reliability or redesigning drivetrains to eliminate the need for some components. For example, direct-drive generators eliminate the need for a gearbox, which reduces weight, eliminates moving parts, and reduces maintenance costs. Increased component reliability means fewer operations and maintenance costs over the lifetime of a wind turbine.

“Developing innovative drivetrain technologies will allow U.S. manufacturers to build larger, more cost-effective and more efficient wind turbines than any in operation today,” Energy Secretary David Chu said. “The projects announced today will help the United States to lead the global wind energy industry in this critical technology area, diversify our domestic energy portfolio, and create new jobs for American workers.”

Each project has been selected to receive up to $700,000 to conduct technology cost and readiness assessments during Phase I. After the six-month Phase I funding period, several of the projects will be selected for award negotiations of up to an additional $2 million each over 18 months. Projects selected for Phase II awards will use the funding to conduct performance tests of the specific drivetrain components.

The awards will be issued through the Energy Department’s Wind and Water Power Program, which works to research, test, develop and deploy innovative wind energy technologies.

— Ashley Schapitl is press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.