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Making Wind Energy More Efficient

A wake is the region of recirculating air flow immediately behind a moving solid body, caused by the air flow of surrounding air around the wind turbine. The air turbines not only produce power, they produce wakes -- similar to what forms in bodies of water -- that are invisible ripples and waves and other disturbances in the atmosphere downstream that can damage turbines and decrease efficiency. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers and collaborators will launch a study of those wakes this month, with an eye toward improving the efficiency and potential produced power of the wind farms.

The wake can be massively separated and behind the body is a reverse flow region where the flow is moving toward the body. This phenomenon is often observed in wind tunnel testing of aircraft. High-fidelity computational fluid dynamics simulations are often undertaken to model wake flows, although such modeling has uncertainties associated with turbulence modeling

The scientists will collect valuable data that will help validate the wind flow models developed at Livermore and other laboratories and universities.

"This study is part of a larger suite of observational and model development efforts under way at LLNL to help attain aggressive state and national targets for renewable energy deployment," said Jeff Mirocha of LLNL. "This field campaign dovetails with ongoing observational studies at our Site 300 that are focused on understanding the complex wind patterns occurring in hilly, coastally influenced locations, which is similar to much of California's wind resource."

The Laboratory also has been working on numerical weather prediction models to predict power generated by the wind, so that wind farms can operate more efficiently while providing more power to the nation's hungry power grids. Predictive time frames range from an hour ahead to days ahead of time.

The new project entails experiments that will help make a detailed study of wakes created by wind turbines. Those profiles could help turbine and wind farm developers improve layout and design.

The study is aimed at an improved understanding and characterization of inflow conditions on turbines in complex terrain that would help engineers better understand, model, and design for turbine loading, turbine performance and power plant performance. The goal is to integrate advanced observational capabilities with innovative approaches to atmospheric simulation.

Bob Banta, atmospheric scientist with NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory, has spent the last several years using a sophisticated instrument -- a high-resolution, scanning dopplar lidar -- to make three-dimensional portraits of wind speeds and directions in the atmosphere. For the wind technology site project, the research team aims to capture turbulence and other wake effects in a broad wedge of air up to 7 km (4.3 miles) long and 1 km (3,280 feet) high.

The researchers hope to capture the effects of ramp up and ramp down events, when winds suddenly gust high or die down, and they will gather data on what happens downstream when winds shift direction quickly.

"This generation of wind turbines is stretching up into a complicated part of the atmosphere," Lundquist said. "If we can understand how gusts and rapid changes in wind direction affect turbine operations and how turbine wakes behave, we can improve design standards, increase efficiency, and reduce the cost of energy,"

By. Andy Soos




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Leave a comment
  • Anonymous on May 02 2011 said:
    I wish these wind-energy researchers luck, because they are going to need it to convince humble me that they are doing something worth while. Yes, wind energy will probably pay off in certain regions, but what a lot of this talk about wind energy is doing is providing some ignorant decision makers with ideas about wind energy that make no economic sense at all.

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