Texas Tech University maintains a major research emphasis on wind energy. Scientists work to study the detailed characteristics of turbine inflow and wake flow, and work with engineers to understand turbine response, loading and performance. Other engineers are working in areas related to gearbox failure, power electronics and grid integration, while meteorologists work toward improving wind power forecasts and resource assessment.
Currently, the field of renewable energy has the potential for huge economic expansion, and wind energy is poised to provide 20% of the nation's electricity by 2030. Lubbock's location in the Great Plains "wind corridor" region makes this part of Texas ideal for research and education in wind energy.
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.
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 central 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.
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.
The WTM consists of 83 meteorological observation stations distributed across 52 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.
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Main Research Efforts:
Assessment of the risk and effects resulting from wind turbine exposure to events, such as low-level jets, extreme wind speed and direction shear, thunderstorm outflow and micro-bursts, and wind vortices.
Measurement and modeling of the complex flows found within and adjacent to wind farms, including turbine-to-turbine interaction.
Impact of wind speed and directional shear on turbine power performance.
Investigation of the impact of the increasing wind power capacity onto the electrical grid.
Enhancing short term wind power forecasting using ensemble based forecasting techniques.
Analysis and testing of utility-scale wind turbines designed for use in less-energetic wind regimes.
Full-scale testing of wind-driven water desalination systems and their associated economics.