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Spring 2016 @NWTC Newsletter

Below is the Spring 2016 issue of the @NWTC newsletter.

Project and Program Updates

Simulation from SOWFA that shows a number of wind turbines and how the wind is flowing between them, with the flow indicated by various colors.

Winds of Change Blowing for Wind Farm Research with NREL's SOWFA Tool

Before the Energy Department's NREL released its Simulator fOr Wind Farm Applications (SOWFA) simulation tool in August 2013, there had not been an open-source, freely available tool of this capability that researchers all over the world could embrace. Now, the winds of change are blowing.


Image of a single wind turbine with clouds and sky in the background.

Photo by Dennis Schroeder NREL 27442

NREL Research Proves Wind Can Provide Ancillary Grid Fault Response

When the Energy Department commissioned a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine in 2009, it became a key player in improving the performance and lowering the costs of wind energy systems. In 2015, researchers at the NWTC at NREL, connected the 300-foot-tall turbine to the controllable grid interface test facility, which simulates the real-time conditions of a utility-scale power grid. This began an ongoing, Energy Department-funded research effort to test how wind turbines can remain connected to the grid during short periods of grid failure.


Photo of two men in hard hats engaging in a discussion and standing in front of the 2.5-megawatt dynamometer.

Photo by Malone Media.

One Step Closer to the Marketplace for State-of-the-Art Wind Turbine Drivetrain

NWTC researchers at NREL have entered the final phase of testing a next-generation drivetrain—made up of the components of a wind turbine that convert the rotational energy of the rotor into electricity—that will be less expensive, more reliable, and more efficient. This project, funded by the Energy Department, combines innovations across the entire drivetrain system, including the gearbox, generator, and power converter.


A meteorological tower in the background, one wind turbine in the front, and one turbine to the right.

Photo from Sandia National Laboratories

NREL and Sandia to Sharpen Wind Farm Turbine Controls

Researchers at the Energy Department's NREL are working to make the "brains" of a wind farm smarter and more efficient. Senior Research Engineer Paul Fleming along with Postdoctoral Researcher Pieter Gebraad and a team from the NWTC at NREL have designed control systems—the brains—which coordinate the controllers of individual turbines.


Photo of Bob Thresher, on the left, and Nathan Tom, on the right.

Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL 35205

NWTC Researchers Develop Wave Energy Conversion Technology

Robert Thresher may be considered the wizard of wind at NREL, having worked in the field since 1973. At the laboratory since 1984, Thresher's credited with the buildup of what is now the NWTC and the startup of the Energy Department's Water Energy Program. His longtime efforts at turning wind and water into renewable energy has now yielded a record of invention titled "Wave Energy Conversion Devices with Actuated Geometry."


Group photo of the members of the winning Pennsylvania State University team.

Photo from the U.S. Department of Energy

Collegiate Teams on Track for May Competition

Twelve collegiate teams are gearing up for the biannual U.S. Department of Energy Collegiate Wind Competition 2016, to be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, May 2325, 2016, in conjunction with the AWEA WINDPOWER 2016 Conference & Exhibition. Since the inaugural competition in 2014, the number of competing teams has increased—and so has the diversity—hailing from colleges and universities across the United States, including Alaska and Puerto Rico.


Group photo of members of the IEC Renewable Energy Wind Energy Operational Management Committee with snow-capped mountains in the background.

Photo by Bachmann Electronics

NWTC Engineer Wins Prestigious International Electrotechnical Commission Award

Jeroen van Dam is proving that a single person can have a global impact. A principal engineer at the NWTC at NREL, van Dam recently received the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 1906 award. This honor is bestowed on technical experts whose exceptional involvement in IEC activities has brought about significant advancements in international electrotechnical standardization. Since the award's inception in 2004, three current NWTC experts have received it: Derek Berry, Arlinda Huskey, and Paul Veers.