Erecting DOE/SNL tower #1 at the SWiFT facility.

The U.S. Department of Energy and Vestas R&D have completed construction of a new state-of-the-art wind plant research facility at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. The Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) facility is the first U.S. facility specifically designed and constructed to tackle the challenges of the DOE Wind Farm of the Future program.

Three highly modified and upgraded wind turbines will serve as the first phase of an effort to understand the complex wind flow and wind-turbine wakes within a wind plant. R&D from this facility will reduce the cost of wind energy by reducing aerodynamic losses from turbine-to-turbine interaction, enhance energy capture, and mitigate turbine damage.

Vestas and DOE/SNL assembled towers and nacelles for advanced rotor development and accelerated technology deployment at the DOE/SNL Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) facility on the grounds of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

Construction of the pier-style turbine foundations was completed in December. After this foundation concrete was fully cured, the towers were erected in February. To enable cutting-edge research, engineers worked through the night to perform detailed characterization of the tower and foundations. Following tower characterization, the nacelles were assembled onto each tower to complete the SWiFT’s turbine-nacelle assembly phase.

During early March, Vestas and Sandia worked together to shake down all operational and emergency systems on the heavily prototyped machines before finally erecting the turbine rotors. At the same time, two anemometer towers were erected to allow researchers to measure the 3-D flow through and above the rotor. Now completed, the facility is currently undergoing shake-down and performance testing and will be ready for Wind Farm of the Future R&D activities by mid to late May 2013.