Sandia Labs wind farm adds Vestas turbine

Sandia National Laboratories' Scaled Wind Farm Technology facility in Texas will add a Vestas V27 research turbine to the two V27 turbines already on site. The facility will test turbine-to-turbine interactions.

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The initial phase of Sandia National Laboratories’ (Albuquerque, N.M., USA) Scaled Wind Farm Technology facility (SWIFT), currently being constructed in partnership with Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, USA, will be larger than originally planned. Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems (Aarhus, Denmark) will add its own 300-kW, V27 research turbine to the two Sandia V27 research turbines.

The Labs worked with Vestas to develop the new three-turbine site plan, tailored to study turbine-to-turbine interactions. Sandia and Vestas will conduct collaborative research with all three turbines, although each turbine can also be used separately with minimal interaction.

“The Lubbock site benefits from high wind resource and low turbulence, which is ideal for research,” says Jon White, project manager and researcher in Sandia’s Wind Energy Technologies group. “Wind at the site comes predominately from the south, making it easy to set up the turbine array for research on turbine-to-turbine interactions.”

The SWIFT concept reflects a shared emphasis amongst the partners on reducing the cost of wind energy by maximizing the output of a wind power plant rather than a single turbine. “This will create a technology accelerator that allows Vestas to bring innovations to market rapidly and cost-effectively,” says Anurag Gupta, director of rotor systems at Vestas’ Technology R&D in Houston, Texas.

“The V27 turbines are the smallest turbines that retain significant characteristics to the study of larger-scale machines,” White says. “Having smaller turbines makes them easier to reconfigure, repair and maintain. The cost differences mean researchers can do earlier-stage, higher-risk research at SWIFT and turn tests around much more quickly, allowing them to pursue a more robust annual research agenda.”

Studies at the site will focus on turbine-to-turbine interactions and innovative rotor technologies. Other areas for investigation include aero-acoustics and structural health monitoring of turbines using embedded sensor systems. Researchers will also continue work on Sandia’s structural mechanical adaptive rotor technology (SMART) program.

“Most wind turbine rotors today are passive structures. Sandia’s SMART rotors have active surfaces similar to airplane wings, with actuators that change their shape, allowing for greater control and flexibility,” White says.

The site eventually might expand to include nine or more wind turbines, which would allow researchers to further examine how individual turbines and entire wind farms can become better “citizens of the grid” and how to be more productive and collaborative. White says the team hopes to have the SWIFT facility operational by October 2012.