Sandia National Laboratories’ 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.
Sandia’s 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:
- Quantitative evaluation and reporting of rotor innovation concepts using numerical studies.
- 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
- offshore siting analysis,
- large offshore rotor development, and
- 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.