Sandia National Laboratories has reached a major milestone by successfully re-mounting a rotor on one of its SWiFT wind turbines, a heavily modified Vestas V27, at the SWiFT facility on January 20, 2016. Wind engineers at SWiFT have been preparing for this event since 2014 when one of the turbines over sped and failed. Since that time, Sandia’s Wind Energy Technologies Department has been evaluating and improving hardware, software, safety systems, procedures, training, and security at the SWiFT site. Site and process improvements include:

  1. A new generator brake system to maintain stopping capability with failure tolerance
  2. A new hardware-in-the-loop testbed to provide exact-replica testing of the turbine controller prior to deployment on the turbine
  3. A significantly strengthened hardware safety system with multiple layers
  4. Implementation of robust review and approval procedures
  5. A rigorous readiness review and change management system designed to expedite future testing

With the successful rotor re-mount to baseline the facility, SWiFT is moving forward in preparation for its upcoming DOE readiness review. A successful readiness review is the final step in returning SWiFT to full operational capability and the initiation of a wide range of wind plant research.

The Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) Facility is the principal wind plant research facility for investigating wind turbine wakes as part of the DOE Atmosphere to Electrons (A2E) initiative. In 2016, the SWiFT Facility will be the focus of a joint experiment conducted by Sandia National Laboratories and National Renewable Energy Laboratory staff studying the use of wind plant controls to mitigate the impact of wakes on plant performance. Additionally, the SWiFT Facility is preparing to fly the first blade set from DOE and Sandia’s National Rotor Testbed (NRT) program which aims to demonstrate the ability to functionally scale utility rotor characteristics to the more cost-effective research scale of the SWiFT turbines. The NRT rotor will recreate the wake of a utility-scale turbine while future NRT rotor designs could demonstrate wake mitigation, damage mitigating active load control, and other innovative design concepts.

To support A2E’s industrial partnership objectives, SWiFT will partner with Windar Photonics and Westergaard Solutions to investigate simultaneous feed-forward / feed-backward wake control. Additionally, Pentalum, Texas Tech University and Sandia have also partnered on a Binational Industrial R&D (BIRD) Foundation grant to further develop a new approach to LIDAR technology with the hopes of leveraging the technology to develop wind plant controllers.

Photo credit: Josh Bryant, Westergaard Solutions