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NREL Launches Major Wind Projects with DOE, Partners

June 8, 2008

Photo of an aerial view of the National Wind Technology Center. Two wind turbines can be seen in the foreground, and mountains in the background. Research buildings are in the middle.

A new Siemens 2.3 megawatt wind turbine will be added to NREL's National Wind Technology Center near Boulder, Colo., to help engineers develop the next generation of wind energy machines.

NREL is partnering on new large projects across the United States to help realize the nation's full wind power potential.

NREL and Siemens Power Generation will locate and test a commercial-scale wind turbine at the Laboratory's National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). Siemens also will open its first U.S. wind research and development center in Boulder, Colo., north of the test site.

Outside of Colorado, NREL will partner with the Department of Energy, universities in Texas and several large energy companies to build a new large wind turbine blade test facility on the Texas Gulf Coast. NREL will provide up to $2 million in capital funds, as well as technical and operational assistance, for the new facility. When completed, it will be capable of testing blades 100 meters (328 feet) in length.

New Facilities Need to Meet Wind Demand

These and other NREL programs are needed to help renewable, domestic wind power increase its share of the U.S. energy portfolio. According to one DOE scenario, wind power could serve 20 percent of the nation's electricity needs by 2030, with technological advancements and a significant and sustained national commitment.

"The U.S. wind industry grew by an astounding 45 percent in 2007," said NREL Director Dan Arvizu. "These projects demonstrate a commitment to the crucial technology R&D — and public-private partnerships — that will be necessary to ensure the wind power industry's continued momentum. We at NREL are proud to be at the forefront of this important work."

Illustration showing a flat-roofed gray building with three high-bay doors on the side. In the background are dock facilities, including a crane, for loading and unloading ships.

A rendering shows the Texas-NREL Large Blade Research and Test Facility to be opened on the Gulf Coast in 2010.

Siemens and NREL to Test 2.3 Megawatt Wind Turbine

At the NWTC, Siemens and NREL will erect a 2.3 megawatt SWT -2.3-101 commercial wind turbine. Engineers from both groups will develop and conduct a full array of tests to evaluate existing systems and develop new ones for next generation technologies. Their collaboration to improve the new turbine's performance will include work on:

  • Power quality
  • Noise emissions
  • Rotor aerodynamics, and
  • Load factors during both normal operation and severe operating conditions.

The work, which is being conducted under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), will last for at least three years, with an option to be extended for an additional five years

Illustration showing a bird's eye view of the Texas-NREL Large Blade Research and Test Facility. A waterway, dock facility and paved area for trucks are the left portion of the picture; the testing building is on the right.

The Texas-NREL Large Blade Research and Test Facility will provide quick and affordable water access.

New Blade Test Facilities on the Coast

In Texas, the new Texas-NREL Large Blade Research and Test Facility will be built on the Gulf Coast at Ingleside, Texas, a port 14 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.

The new blade test facility is expected to be completed in 2010 at an estimated cost of between $12 million and $15 million. Its structures will be owned and operated by the University of Houston.

Blade testing is essential for improving turbine design. The demand for larger megawatt-scale turbines and blades over the past decade and the rapid growth of the U.S. wind industry made it necessary to complement the capabilities of the inland NWTC. The new facility will offer larger testing capacity, as well as relatively quick and affordable water access to manufacturers. Texas already leads the nation in wind power production, and the site offers proximity to potential offshore wind test sites.

DOE and NREL are planning a second large-scale wind turbine test facility with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative in the port of Charlestown, Mass., on Boston Harbor.

Both Ingleside and Charlestown were former U.S. Navy facilities, so they provide deep draft for vessels as well as proximity to growing wind markets on the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard.

For more information, visit NREL Wind Research