AWAKEN: The American WAKE ExperimeNt (Text Version)

This is the text version of the video AWAKEN: The American WAKE ExperimeNt.

Narrator: Wind energy is one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources in the United States. Across the country, tens of thousands of wind turbines are generating clean, renewable power. A modern wind turbine can generate enough electricity to power 900 U.S. homes.

As of 2020, wind is the largest source of renewable electricity generation in the United States, providing more than 8% of the country's electricity and growing. And that percentage could grow even more.

Improved understanding of atmospheric phenomena like wakes and turbulence could increase energy production and profits too. Just like motorboats make wakes as they move through water, wind turbines make wakes that ripple through the air. These ripples can impact the power production of down wind turbines or even entire wind plants and cost the average wind farm about 10% of its potential energy. Before we can fix the problem, we need to better understand it.

Wakes are tricky to analyze. Current energy prediction models cannot estimate exactly how much wakes cost in lost energy or profits. That's why the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Energy Technologies Office and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory partnered up to launch the American WAKE ExperimeNt or AWAKEN for short. The project will convene an international multi-institutional team to study wakes with greater precision than ever before.

First, the team will collect data from wind farms in Oklahoma, a state that as of 2020 produced the third highest amount of wind generated electricity in the United States and has some of the country's best wind resources. The team will use a variety of sensors, including those on aircraft, to piece together a 3D map of how winds moves through wind farms.

Patrick Moriarty, engineering manager, NREL: But right now, wind farm owners don't always understand how the atmosphere interacts with their wind farms, and they're not necessarily able to model how wind farms interact with that atmosphere. So by providing measurements, validating models and simulation tools that are used by industry, then these wind farm owners will be able to better estimate how much their wind farms will actually produce and also better operate them.

Julie Lundquist, professor, University of Colorado–Boulder: One of the particularly innovative parts of AWAKEN is that we will be using airborne systems to try to sample the area next to the wake and then the area through the wake so we can see how much the wind speed decreases within the wind farm wake and then how much the turbulence is enhanced within that region. Some of the obstacles that we need to overcome are just the challenges of, you know, logistics.

When you're deploying this many instruments in a relatively rural region, having access to power and making sure that we don't overload the local cellular connections as we're sending all the data from all of our instruments back to some central facility.

Joe Citeno, advanced technology leader, Onshore Wind Engineering Division, General Electric: NREL has unique talents, unique measurement capability, unique experiences, unique models, and unique relationships. When we partner with them as the leading manufacturer of wind turbines here in the United States, we really create an opportunity to really advance the industry, to make wind farms more productive in terms of power, and also to make them more reliable over time.

Narrator: The AWAKEN data set will help wind farm developers determine which design and operating strategies might bring in the most energy. Open source and globally accessible, AWAKEN's observations will add more certainty to modern wind plant designs and help this valuable clean energy industry grow. For energy consumers, more efficient wind plants could mean even lower wind energy prices and more clean renewable energy to help protect and power our planet.

Want to join the AWAKEN Team? We welcome participation from wind industry representatives, or use our open source data to improve your models and future energy production estimates.

At NREL we are transforming energy.

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