Conducting Applied Research to Increase the Viability of Wind Technology by Improving Wind Turbine Performance and Reliability

We conduct applied research to increase the viability of wind technology by improving wind turbine performance, reliability, and reducing the cost of energy. We also aim to advance the state of knowledge in the areas of materials, structurally efficient airfoil designs, active-flow aerodynamic control, and sensors.

The Wind-Plant Optimization Team seeks to improve the performance and reduce the cost of wind energy by addressing complex system issues associated with wind plants. Current wind-plant optimization research topics include:

  • benchmarking U.S. wind-turbine fleet performance with the Continuous Reliability of Enhancement of Wind (CREW) project;
  • developing new methods and tools for assessing the detailed performance of representative utility-scale wind plants;
  • detailed high-resolution imaging characterization of wake velocities;
  • baselining the first research-scale wind plant designed from the ground-up to provide calibration-quality data that is synchronized from inflow through the turbine system and into the grid; and
  • improving and enhancing the SWiFT facility to meet the most challenging experimental needs.
The Rotor Innovation Team seeks to advance rotor technology such that they capture more energy, more reliably, with relatively lower system loads—all at a lower end cost. Blades make up about 14% of a full turbine’s capital cost, but they are responsible for practically 100% of a wind plant’s energy capture. They are responsible for all the steady and dynamic loads that drive the design and cost for the remainder of the turbine system. Sandia rotor-innovation activities are directed primarily toward:

  1. Quantitative evaluation and reporting of rotor innovation concepts using numerical studies.
  2. Design and field test of rotor hardware for validation of rotor innovation concepts or hardware created to support goals of larger experimental campaigns.
Wind-plant reliability has become increasingly important as installations have reached 4% of U.S. generating capacity. Unplanned maintenance and component failures are both a concern to wind-plant owners as they directly affect revenue streams, as well as wind-turbine manufacturers who have to cover the costs of warrantied maintenance work. The Continuous Reliability of Enhancement of Wind (CREW) project collects data from thousands of wind turbines nationwide to understand the primary drivers of wind-plant component failures. The Blade Reliability Collaborative (BRC) brings together industry, academia, and labs to improve wind-turbine blade manufacturing quality and determine the most cost-effective methods to mitigate environmental damage.
Sandia’s Wind Turbine–Radar Interference (WT/RI) program has been investigating both wind turbines and radars for techniques to help mitigate the radar-interference issue:

  • investigating materials and techniques to reduce the radar cross section (RCS) of a wind turbine blade;
  • characterize the impact of wind turbines on current air surveillance radars, assess new technologies for near-term mitigation, and develop long-term strategies and reduce the barrier for wind-energy deployment; and
  • developing a framework that allows users to analyze potential impacts of proposed wind projects on radar systems.

These efforts utilize expertise from Sandia’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Sensor Technologies Department as well as a partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory.

Sandia executes several projects in support of the DOE Offshore Wind program, which address unique R&D needs related to offshore siting and, in many cases, leverages decades of land-based wind-energy experience along with offshore-specific research thrusts. These projects provide technology development and assessment in research areas important for reducing technology risk, siting offshore turbines and wind farms, and reducing offshore wind’s cost of energy. Some project highlights include

  1. offshore siting analysis,
  2. large offshore rotor development, and
  3. innovative rotor technology
The Wind Energy Technologies Department’s Special Programs activity is a mechanism through which we can provide technical support directly to DOE’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office (WWPTO). This activity facilitates Sandia subject-matter experts (SMEs) providing timely responses to short-notice DOE WWPTO requests for technical analysis and review of various proposals and reports.
  • 2013 Wind Plant Reliability Workshop August 13, 2013
  • Wind Turbine Blade Workshop August 26, 2014
  • Islanded Grid Wind Power Conference March 4, 2015
  • Distributed Wind Conference March 24, 2015
  • Wind Farm Data Management & Analysis, North America March 25, 2015
  • 7th Annual Wind Energy Operations & Maintenance Summit USA April 14, 2015

National Rotor Testbed Rotor Design Integrated Airfoil Performance Results

The National Rotor Testbed (NRT) team is examining the effect of airfoil choice on the final design of the new rotor for the Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) facility. The airfoil family would ideally be […]

Sandia and Partners Complete Phase I of a Vertical-Axis Deep-Water Offshore Turbine Study

Sandia and partners from the University of Maine, Technical University of Delft, Iowa State University, TPI Composites, and Texas A&M University have completed the first phase of a project to explore the feasibility of large-scale […]

Sandia Participated in AMII to Support American-Made Wind-Turbine Blades

Sandia helped wind-turbine blade makers improve the labor productivity associated with blade fabrication & finishing—making domestically produced blades more cost competitive with blades from countries that pay workers lower wages. The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Initiative […]

Study Compares Floating-Platform Options for Offshore Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines

Sandia and the University of Maine recently published a Sandia technical report on floating-platform options for deep-water vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs). This analysis uses a 5 MW VAWT topside design envelope created by Sandia to compare […]