Wind Researchers with Texas Tech University will receive $1.4 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

kimberlykv, Flickr

Tech was awarded roughly a third of funding available from the Department of Enegy for innovative wind power research and development projects. Tech, along with the Biodiversity Research Institute of Gorham, Maine; The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will assist the Energy Department in furthering President Obama’s goal of doubling renewable energy by 2020.

The funds will be used to develop a new radar prototype intended to provide more accurate measurements of flow conditions within wind farms. The same team pioneered the application of radar technology to this effect, but now intends to further hone that concept by enhancing data availability and introducing semi-autonomous operations.

The data collected is used to minimize turbine-to-turbine interaction while maximizing power generation. John Schroeder, professor of atmospheric sciences and principal investigator for the project, said even small adjustments could translate to millions of dollars.

Wind farms are not putting out as much power as we would expect from them. With a better understanding of how turbines interact with each other, we may be able to make small adjustments that could be worth millions of dollars.”

The data will be used in the creation of new farms, as well as tweaking the performances of existing ones where subtle changes in one turbine can create a ripple effect to other turbines within its system. According to Schroeder, existing radar platforms used in meteorological functions are problematic for wind farms because of data contamination resulting from the turbine structures.

The amount of energy that comes back is proportionate to the diameter of what’s out there, such as rain, snow or even birds. In a wind farm setting, there will be large towers and rotating blades contaminating the data. The challenge is in measuring the motion of the air while filtering out those influences.”

Over 18 months, the team will design a device tailored for wind energy research focusing on enhancing clear air sensitivity and semi-autonomous function.
Chancellor Robert Duncan remarked that it was exciting to see such innovative research taking place at Texas Tech.

This is an example of the outstanding technical innovations that are being produced by Texas Tech today. It is exciting to see this new radar technology emerge, that will be used to optimize wind plant energy production based upon data that we have never had access to before now.”