Large Wind Turbine Research
NREL's utility scale wind system research addresses performance and reliability issues and reduces system costs through innovative technology development with industry partners.
The goal of the land-based research projects is to develop advanced wind turbine architectures capable of producing electricity for 3.6 cents/kWh in Class 4 wind regimes by 2012, address wind plant underperformance, and achieve decades-long operational lives for deployed technology.
System Performance Improvement
In 2009, NREL's NWTC installed a GE 1.5-MW wind turbine that will be used as a tool for long-term testing and R&D. It will be instrumented to collect detailed data that will help researchers address a variety of issues, including premature turbine component failure.
NREL researchers will validate the performance of a novel blade design on a Siemens 2.3-MW wind turbine installed at the NWTC in 2009. The goal of this project is to further understand wind turbine mechanical dynamics, aerodynamics, and wind inflow to reduce loads, which will result in improved energy capture and turbine reliability.
NREL also conducts structural tests of full-scale wind turbine blades and subcomponents to improve blade reliability. Results from the blade tests conducted at the NWTC are used by industry members to evaluate the effects of design and manufacturing flaws and help establish manufacturing flaw limits for production blades prior to field deployment.
Increasing Gearbox Reliability
NREL researchers are collaborating with leading industry experts to improve gearbox performance. The goal of the Gearbox Reliability Collaborative (GRC) is to validate the typical design process—from the wind turbine system loads to bearing rating—through a comprehensive dynamometer and field-test program on two extensively instrumented gearboxes. This design analysis will isolate gaps in the state-of-the-art design process and form a basis for improving reliability of future designs and retrofit packages.
Read more about NREL's GRC research in Gearbox Reliability Collaborative Project Report: Findings from Phase 1 and Phase 2 Testing.
Advanced Tower Concepts
Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), NREL is working with Renewable Energy Systems (RES) Americas to investigate structural loads on foundations of operating wind turbines, thermal performance of underground collection system electrical cables, and to conduct side-by-side comparisons of alternative wind speed measurement systems. This research will lead to increased efficiency and reduced maintenance in the non-turbine components of a wind plant, which will help to lower the overall cost of wind energy.
NREL works with AWEA's Development Board and wind industry experts to develop national guidelines. These guidelines will capitalize on existing IEC Standards to avoid creating new standards and will help facilitate compliance verification activities by local inspectors and project developers attempting to permit wind turbines.