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New Substation Will Double Generating Capacity at National Wind Technology Center

Jan. 8, 2019

Concrete foundation pads, electrical equipment, fencing, and a tall lightning protection mast have been installed.

Construction continues on the new substation at the National Wind Technology Center. As of January 2, frames to support transmission lines, bus bars, a lightning protection mast, and fencing have been installed for the new substation site at the NWTC. Concrete blocks in the bottom right will provide the foundation for the substation control building. The new transmission lines will continue south for a mile off the NWTC property before turning west to connect with the new Xcel Energy substation. Photo by Mim Mirsky, NREL

A major construction project is underway at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) to upgrade the site's electrical generation capacity from 10 megawatts (MW) to 19.9 MW. NREL is working with Xcel Energy on the project, and each organization is building a new 115-kilovolt substation to connect the power generated at the NWTC with Xcel Energy's transmission lines. Once completed, this upgrade will enable megawatt-scale research that generates nearly twice that amount of power to occur at the same time—increasing opportunities for more grid-connected technologies, including solar panels, batteries, and additional wind turbines.

A new interconnection agreement between the parties will allow for more power generated at the NWTC to be sent to the utility's grid. Currently, researchers must turn off generators to prevent excess power above the 10-MW limit from reaching the grid.

A pair of transformers will also enable the NWTC to take more power from the grid for on-site use. The second, redundant transformer will improve campus reliability and reduce any necessary downtime during transformer maintenance periods. In addition, the NWTC's grid connection will move from distribution lines on wooden poles to Xcel Energy's transmission network on more robust tall steel power poles. This more reliable network is valuable for NREL's growing research capabilities.

This complex construction project, which is funded by both the U.S. Department of Energy and NREL, broke ground at the NWTC in early 2018. It is expected to be commissioned in November 2019.