When Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems A/S decided to build a multi-rotor wind turbine, it used a hardware emulation system developed by Sandia National Laboratories to create, configure, and test the controls system.

Instead of relying on ever larger turbines to increase energy production and reduce the cost of energy, Vestas designed an innovative demonstrator turbine with four nacelles and four rotors (29 m diameter) attached to a single support structure. Offering new opportunities for wind energy production, this cutting-edge concept requires a flexible and unconventional control system.

Vestas Wind Systems A/S used Sandia’s hardware-in-the-loop technology to design the controls system for its experimental multi-rotor turbine, as shown below. Source: www.tuv-sud.com/pressphotos

To design this control system, Vestas used Sandia’s hardware-in-the-loop system which comprises a highly-configurable control computer and a full turbine simulation in a portable package. The hardware-in-the-loop system has three parts: (1) a replica of the control computer and the software in the wind turbine, (2) a separate computer system that emulates the external inputs to the sensor and feeds them to the control computer, and (3) a scaled-down, motor-driven generator that emulates the wind turbine’s drive train and the wind loading. This system enables developers to test and configure the controllers reliably and consistently to meet standard wind industry testing procedures before actual installation.

Sandia originally created the hardware-in-the-loop system to test and deploy open-source wind turbine control software at its Scaled Wind Farm Technology facility (SWiFT), a research site at Texas Tech University funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. SWiFT is home to three highly instrumented and modified variable-speed, variable-pitch Vestas V27 turbines. Since 2012, Vestas has supported SWiFT to accelerate technology development and facilitate cost-effective marketplace innovation.

Today, the SWiFT site is an innovation platform for many research and industry partners. If you would like to know more about partnering with Sandia National Laboratories and using the SWiFT site, please contact Jon White.