New Research Turbine Commissioned At NREL

NREL's National Wind Technology Center near Boulder, Colorado
NREL’s National Wind Technology Center near Boulder, Colorado
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Siemens Energy Inc. formally commissioned a new 2.3 megawatt Siemens wind turbine at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center on Monday, Oct. 19, 2009. The turbine is the centerpiece of a multi-year project to study the performance and reliability of a new class of large, land-based machines–in what will be the biggest government-industry research partnership for wind power generation ever undertaken.

Under their Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, Siemens and NREL will test basic turbine characteristics and verify new performance enhancing features of the pilot turbine over a minimum period of three years and potentially longer. Testing will include a full range of real-world operating regimens, including severe weather conditions.

At the culmination of Monday’s event, representatives from NREL and Siemens flipped a switch that allowed power to flow from the giant machine–mounted atop on a 262-foot tower and fitted with a 331-foot-diameter rotor–to the electrical grid.

The Siemens 2.3 MW turbine is among the largest land-based turbines deployed in the United States. Planned testing includes: structural and performance testing; modal, acoustics and power quality testing; aerodynamic testing; and turbine performance enhancements.

Researchers at NREL are also interested ground support requirements for larger wind turbines, which can weigh 400-800 tons. NREL and Renewable Energy Systems Americas (RES) have entered into a separate but coordinated agreement to study the design and performance of turbine foundations, with the aim of increasing the reliability of non-turbine components and reducing turbine installation costs.

A new meteorological tower to the west of the turbine will feature more than 60 instruments to collect comprehensive data on wind, temperature, dew point, precipitation and other weather features that can influence the performance and lifespan of a wind turbine.

The new turbine and other new projects underway at the National Wind Technology Center also allow NREL to take a significant step forward in generating its own clean electricity to accomplish the laboratory’s aggressive sustainability goals, including reduction of greenhouse gas emissions while meeting the energy needs of NREL’s expanding campus. DOE, NREL, and Xcel Energy are on an agreement for surplus energy to be exported and sold to the local utility grid.

This turbine project is part of a coordinated wind research program that is supported by DOE’s Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

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