by Chris Cook
Researchers at the facility will study turbine-to-turbine interactions and evaluate innovative rotor technologies. Photo courtesy Sandia National Laboratories.
Wind Science and Engineering Research Center (WiSE)
WiSE offers interdisciplinary education in wind science engineering as well as research opportunities in windstorm disaster mitigation, atmospheric science, debris testing and other wind-related subjects.
Advanced Wind Energy Test Facility Makes a Move
For more than four decades Texas Tech University has studied the wind. First researchers examined how to mitigate the devastation caused by severe winds. Now scientists have turned their attention to capturing the wind to meet the nation’s energy demands.
Focusing initially on studying the impact of wind on structures and human life, Texas Tech is internationally known for pioneering above-ground storm shelters. Researchers have helped establish stronger building codes for cities in hurricane- and tornado-prone areas and led the effort to develop the Enhanced Fujita Scale, the measure used to determine the strength of a tornado.
A natural extension of the university’s wind mitigation work is a move into wind energy research. The recent announcement that Sandia National Laboratories will move its wind energy test facility to Texas Tech helps to establish the university as a national wind energy research leader.
Texas Tech, Sandia National Laboratories and Group NIRE will operate a facility that will primarily perform research and development work in turbine-to-turbine interactions and will evaluate innovative rotor technologies. The facility is expected to be operational sometime in the spring of 2012. The parties will finalize their contractual relationships over the next few months.
“This is an exciting project for Texas Tech,” said John Schroeder, director of Texas Tech’s Wind Science and Engineering Research Center (WiSE). “The combination of capabilities offered by Sandia National Laboratories, Group NIRE and Texas Tech provides a powerful partnership for future wind energy research and technology transfer. We look forward to working closely with our partners to bring the facility online later this year.”
The facility, to be located at Texas Tech’s 67-acre wind science and engineering research test site at Reese Technology Center, includes an initial installation of two wind turbines and three anemometer towers, with the potential to expand to nine or more wind turbines. The facility will allow researchers to examine how individual turbines and whole wind farms can be more productive and collaborative.
– Taylor Eighmy, VPR
“It is very special indeed to have a long-term, collaborative research and development partner like Sandia National Laboratories,” said Taylor Eighmy, Texas Tech’s vice president for research. “The impact of this facility and collaboration will be immense for us. We look forward to a long and beneficial relationship with our federal partner.”
Potential wind farm and wind research sites fall into classes of 1 through 5, with class 5 winds being the preferred wind for research and for harvesting energy. However, only a small percentage of available sites are class five. Winds vary year-round and change seasonally, so the site needed to be carefully characterized to ensure year-round quality wind for rapid evaluation of technologies.
“We looked for a location that not only had a great wind resource, but also had a true commitment to wind energy; the partnership with Texas Tech does just that,” said Jon White, Sandia project lead.
Group NIRE will provide direct pathways for technology transfer to industry. Group NIRE will install additional megawatt-scale wind turbines at an adjacent site for testing and collaboration. Group NIRE is a clean energy company providing project development, finance and consulting services. Group NIRE is currently developing wind projects in six states and working with several international renewable energy component manufacturers to commercialize new products and technologies.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is funding Sandia’s work. Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory with main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif. Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
Bachelor of Science in Wind Energy
Texas Tech began offering a one-of-a-kind Bachelor of Science in Wind Energy degree program in fall 2011.
Unlike any other wind energy degree program in the nation, Texas Tech seeks to educate individuals in a multidisciplinary format, instead of focusing primarily on educating engineers and technicians. Texas Tech’s curriculum – with courses ranging from design and construction to atmospheric science and research – will qualify graduates to fill a variety of positions, including weather forecaster, financial analyst or government liaison.
The 120-hour degree plan requires students to complete 47 hours of core curriculum, 40 hours of wind energy core classes and 27 hours of wind energy electives. Students also will be expected to gain six hours of international experience, either by studying abroad or through an international internship.
While the program currently is based out of Texas Tech’s Lubbock campus, plans are underway to offer the degree in an online format as well.
Chris Cook is Managing Director for the Office of Communications & Marketing at Texas Tech University.