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Researchers to Study in the Wake of the Wind

National Science Foundation grant will fund analysis to improve wind farm performance.

Written by Karin Slyker

NSF grant to fund turbine wake research.

Research professor Brian Hirth will lead an investigation to improve wind farm performance.

Wind farms may be operating at less than their potential, according to researchers at Texas Tech University’s National Wind Institute (NWI).

In a two-fold study, Texas Tech research professor Brian Hirth and NWI director John Schroeder will use a $385,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to work with wind farm operators in the Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and southwest Kansas region to study wind flows through various wind farms.

In addition to power, turbines also produce wake. The disturbance, while invisible to the naked eye, interferes with the atmosphere downstream. These turbine-to-turbine interactions along with other wind farm complex wind flows are poorly documented.  Currently, there is a shortage of real-time wind data fed into farm control systems, and individual turbines are limited in their response to rapidly changing wind conditions. The result can be damage to the turbines and a decrease in overall wind farm efficiency.

The proposal titled “Building the Foundation for Smart Wind Farms through First-Order Controls Opportunities based on Real-Time Observations of Complex Flows” will utilize both TTUKa radars, with the study to last three years, Schroeder said.

Hirth said the radar measurements will provide accurate and timely wind maps which can be used in real time to transform how wind farms operate to ultimately improve their performance.

They will also track what happens to the flow field through wind farms when wind farm operators adjust the turbine’s angle and rotation in reaction to wind events.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Texas Tech to remain on the forefront of wind energy research,” Hirth said. “It’s a unique opportunity to collaborate with industry to develop the first generation of smart wind farms.”

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National Wind Institute
National Wind Institute

National Wind Institute (NWI) is world-renowned for conducting innovative research in the areas of wind energy, wind hazard mitigation, wind-induced damage, severe storms and wind-related economics.

NWI is also home to world-class researchers with expertise in numerous academic fields such as atmospheric science, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, mathematics and economics, and NWI was the first in the nation to offer a doctorate in Wind Science and Engineering, and a Bachelor of Science in Wind Energy.

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Featured Expert
John Schroeder

John Schroeder is a professor of atmospheric science in the Department of Geosciences in the College of Arts and Sciences and is director of the National Wind Institute.

View his profile in our online Experts Guide.