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ARPA-E Wind Wins: NREL to Produce Public Datasets that Advance Floating Wind Turbine Design

Oct. 29, 2019

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W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory at the University of Maine will be used to conduct combined wind and wave wind turbine testing with advanced controls. Photo courtesy of the University of Maine

Next-generation floating wind systems will use controls to make them more efficient, lighter weight, and lower cost, but first industry needs a foundation built on validated design tools to explore novel controls-integrated design approaches. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is generating the first public data set to include advanced turbine and platform control using a 1:60-scale testing setup, which will provide data to validate the modeling tools incorporating control co-design characteristics.  

The project, named the Floating Offshore-wind and Controls Advanced Laboratory (FOCAL) experiment, is one of three NREL-led offshore wind proposals to be funded by ARPA-E, a Department of Energy agency that rewards advanced energy technologies. FOCAL will provide the unique validation data needed by enabling control co-design optimization to help realize the deep cost reductions as envisioned by ARPA-E.

Within the model-scale FOCAL experiment, researchers will subject an NREL-designed 15-megawatt turbine to wind and water dynamics and real control decisions while recording its response. The experiment is taking place within partner University of Maine’s Alfond Wind-Wave Ocean Engineering Laboratory, where researchers can generate test waves in a 30-foot wide, 16-foot deep pool along with wind excitation.

The novelty of the collected data centers on the representation of advanced features for floating wind systems that will lower costs: a flexible hull that represents more streamlined designs being proposed, and controls to limit the motion of the system and reduce loads. Both traits will be tested under a range of correlated wind and water conditions, and exhaustively recorded with structural sensors and performance measurements. Never before has such realistic data been collected on these two features, which will ultimately be translated to future designs.

Importantly, the data and findings from the FOCAL experiment will be made available to other groups within ARPA-E’s program for advanced floating wind turbines, named ATLANTIS. The datasets will set the foundation for groups to pursue the ATLANTIS goal of light and efficient floating turbines with integrated controls.

Learn more about NREL’s offshore wind research.