Energy and Climate

SWiFT: Innovating the Future of Wind Farm Performance

It is well known that large amounts of wind energy are not effectively harvested in large wind farms because the turbines “shadow” each other and reduce the output of the turbines located in their wake. The wakes also produce increased turbulence and uneven loading on the shadowed turbines, increasing fatigue issues that eventually affect a wind farm’s longevity and reliability.

But, maybe the wake does not have to be a disadvantage. In nature, birds both manipulate their wings and migrate in a V-formation to take advantage of each others’ wakes in order to improve the flock’s overall performance. It may be possible transfer ideas from nature, change turbines’ aerodynamic design to “fly” them in formation, improving overall wind farm output and reliability.

The Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) Facility is designed as a cost-effective innovation platform for the study of both rotors and wakes. The cost effectiveness is achieved by using smaller, but still relevant turbines—allowing for much more rapid and even radical experimentation. The platform is supported by a state-of-the-art facility control center where all data collection is streamed; and a large assembly area for rotor and equipment preparation.

Figure 1.Turbine–turbine interaction schematic with wakes denoted by white helices and white fog.

Our primary interests are to:

  • Reduce power losses and damage caused by turbine–turbine interaction through study of complex wake flows;
  • Enhance wind farm energy capture by developing the next generation rotor technology;
  • Improve the validity of aerodynamic, aero-elastic, and aero-acoustic simulations used to develop innovative technologies; and
  • Improve wind plant reliability with new technology.

SWiFT is hosted in the middle of the continental U.S. wind corridor at Texas Tech University at the Reese Technology Center, operated by Department of Energy (DOE) and Sandia National Laboratories.

The facility is comprised of three heavily instrumented and modified variable-speed variable-pitch Vestas V27 turbines and two 60 m anemometer towers. We are actively seeking industrial, governmental, laboratory, and academic partners, with whom we can either install additional collaborative-research turbines at any of the remaining 7 pad sites or collaborate on research projects with the existing infrastructure.

SWiFT is open to all partnerships with industry, government, national laboratory, and academic entities. The initial facility complement of three turbines was collaboratively built by a partnership of Department of Energy (DOE), Sandia National Laboratories, Vestas, Texas Tech University, and Group NIRE. Whether you are a turbine original equipment manufacturer (OEM), a wind farm operator, a service provider, or a research organization, we invite you to join us improving the performance of future wind farms through research at SWiFT, either within the guidelines given above or by leveraging other Sandia advanced technologies applied to wind farm optimization.

Read more about SWiFT, SWiFT Overview Presentation pptx 10.04 MB.

Read more about TTU’s National Wind Institute, Texas Tech University National Wind Institute Overview pdf 1.23 MB.

Read more about DOE’s Wind Program, and DOE’s Wind Program Accomplishments.

Return to the SWiFT homepage.

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