NWI Research Facilities and Technologies

Texas Tech takes a hands-on approach to studying the wind. Since its founding more than 40 years ago, the university’s wind program has developed a wind array of facilities and instrumentation to allow a multidisciplinary approach to researching all things wind.

NWI offers a unique set of research facilities that allows faculty and students to examine how best to harness wind energy and mitigate wind-related damage.

Research facilities are located primarily at Reese Technology Center, a 2,500-acre research park located eight miles from the university campus. NWI occupies 56,000 square feet of indoor laboratory space as well as a 67-acre field site. Components of some instrumentation are deployed across West Texas and Eastern New Mexico.

Research Facilities & Technologies

200 m Meteorological Tower

The ability to measure wind speeds and other atmospheric conditions at multiple levels allows TTU researchers to gain fundamental knowledge about low-level jets and other atmospheric events. A 200 meter data acquisition tower is available to measure and record atmospheric conditions at 10 levels, with a variety of instruments to measure different levels of weather including: wind speed, direction, temperature, humidity and pressure.

This data collection platform helps researchers learn fundamental knowledge about how wind behaves at different heights which has real-world application in several areas.

Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel

The Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel is a closed-circuit wind tunnel capable of generating wind speeds up to 110 mph. It has an aerodynamic section and a boundary layer section. The boundary layer section is 6 ft. wide and 4 ft. high, and has 58 feet of upstream fetch for development of desired boundary layer flow.

Major instruments available in the wind tunnel include Cobra probes, force transducers, laser displacement sensors and a Scanivalve system for wind, displacement, force and pressure measurements, respectively. The wind tunnel is also equipped with a particle image velocimetry system and a smoke generator for flow visualization.

Testing has included wind-induced vibration of cables on cable-stayed bridges, traffic signal support structures and evaluation of wind loading on sign structures.

Debris Impact Facility

Fondly referred to as a "potato gun on steroids", this is the heart of the Debris Impact Facility – a pneumatic cannon capable of producing simulated wind speeds over 250 mph. This facility is utilized to provide valuable impact reistance data by launching different types of simulated wind debris in a controlled environment.

The cannon plays an important role in researching effective tornado shelters for use in homes and other structures. The cannon is utilized to develop standards for safe shelters, and continues to be in demand for testing new shelter materials and construction.

The NWI Debris Impact Lab was selected for Popular Science’s “Most Awesome College Labs 2013"

Ka-band Mobile Radar Trucks

NWI has two mobile Ka-band Mobile Doppler Radar trucks. These fully coherent, pulse compression Doppler radar systems utilize traveling wave tube technology and provide the ability for four-dimensional mapping of a wide spectrum of atmospheric phenomena with very-fine spatial resolution useful for both the atmospheric science and engineering communities.

Low Level Boundary Layer Profiler

This vertical atmospheric radar provides a detailed analysis of the lower boundary layer. The unit is linked with the West Texas Mesonet network.

Mobile StickNets

The student-developed, versatile rapid-deployment 2.5 m meteorological observing platform are used to monitor storms and hurricanes as they happen and relay information in real-time to decision makers.

Called "StickNet" for its resemblance to a stick figure, the 24 platforms function as autonomous mobile observing networks capable of gathering a variety of meteorological information including dryline properties, urban wind flows, density currents, synoptic wind events and terrain-induced flows. Each platform can be deployed by two individuals in a  manner of minutes allowing personnel to relocate to safer ground and leave the instruments in place. This allows the collection of valuable storm data without risk to personnel.

The StickNet platforms have traveled to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to observe multiple hurricane landfalls including Dolly and Ike in Texas in 2008.

The highest wind speed recorded by a StickNet platform to date is 115 mph during the landfall of Hurricane Ike.

Regional SODAR Network

SOnic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) are acoustic radars that are available to evaluate low-level atmospheric stability and wind characteristics. Six SCINTEC flat panel array units have been installed across West Texas.

DOE/SNL SWiFT Facility

The facility is a major collaborative research initiative involving Texas Tech University, the National Wind Institute and partners from the Department of Energy (DOE), Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), Vestas, and Group NIRE.

Research focuses on the investigation of turbine-to-turbine interaction and innovative rotor technologies, as well as aero-acoustics and structural health monitoring of turbines using embedded sensor systems.

As more and more wind farms are built, researchers are learning that significant amounts of wind energy is lost due to turbine-to-turbine interaction and wake inefficiency. (Think of how geese will fly in a V-formation to get less drag. Setting up a wind farm needs to find ways to reduce the wake "drag", so to speak, from one row of turbines to the row behind.) Additionally, this uneven turbine loading not only leads to under-performance for the wind farm as a whole, but the uneven wind loads also contribute to the actual wind turbines wearing out faster.

The site hosts three 300-kilowatt V27 turbines, two deployed by Sandia National Laboratories, and the third belonging to Vestas. The upgraded V27 turbines are smaller research-scale turbines that retain the significant characteristics of larger utility-scale wind turbines, allowing for more timely and cost-effective research. The three turbines all stream data to a centrol control center to allow for effective and efficient data anaylsis.

The wind energy test facility is located at Reese Technology Center. The SWiFT project was formally commissioned in summer 2013. Read more about SWiFT.

VorTECH

VorTECH, located at Reese Technology Center, is designed to simulate tornadic winds in the mid-Enhanced Fujita Scale three (EF3) range or less, or about 150 miles per hour or less, the maximum speed of approximately 92 percent of all tornadoes.

The simulator uses eight large fans to suck up approximately 160,000 cubic feet of air each minute, while 64 strategically placed vanes surround the simulator to create rotation. The force of the wind is measured by dozens of pressure sensors applied to structural models. The data collected will contribute to understanding how tornadoes interact and may damage a structure -- this information can help researchers develop more effective building codes to improve the safety of structures.

* Read more about VorTech

* Watch VorTECH in action

West Texas Mesonet

The WTM consists of 84 meteorological observation stations distributed across 58 counties throughout West Texas and parts of Eastern New Mexico as far south as Big Bend in South Texas.

The system provides real-time data including wind speed and direction at different levels, air temperatures at different levels, humidity and dew point, solar radiation, rainfall, barometric pressure and climate histories, as well as agricultural data including soil temperature and moisture at different levels, leaf wetness and evapotranspiration.

Data from the WTM network is extremely useful for those in the agricultural industry which makes up a large part of the economy in West Texas. It is also what our local TV meteorologists refer to for their daily weather forecasts in Lubbock and the surrounding communities.

Wind Engineering Research Field Laboratory (WERFL)

WERFL is an instrumented 30x45x13 foot building and signal light structures located at Reese Technology Center. These structures, along with an associated data acquisition system, permit measurements of wind induced pressures and responses in natural wind.

Wind Library

The NWI wind library is home to one of the largest collections of wind-related material in the world. The collection includes Ted Fujita’s papers, reports and photographs, which were donated to Texas Tech by the Fujita family and the University of Chicago.

The collection also includes documentation of more than 100 wind storm events from throughout the United States.