Officials from Texas Tech, Department of Energy, Sandia National Laboratories, Vestas and Group NIRE welcomed Tech's newest wind energy facility Tuesday. It's called the Scaled Wind Farm Technology Facility (SWiFT) and it will be the first of its kind in the entire nation.
"There's a lot of research avenues that come from this facility, but one of the main ones is starting to optimize wind plants, not just optimizing the individual turbine," said Director of the Texas Tech National Wind Institute John Schroeder.
Schroeder said the goal is to get more energy out of the entire plant by studying the interaction between turbines.
SWiFT wants to build around 100 machines, watch how they interact and see if they are hindering wind production.
Jose Zayas, the Director of Wind and Water Technologies for the Department of Energy said this is cutting-edge research in wind energy.
"What we're trying to do in this facility is to gather the information to try and understand that and better address it," he said.
Zayas said these turbines are smaller than those on a typical wind farm. They are filled with sensors and tracked through a radar that measures the wake created from one turbine to another. He described it like a boat on a calm lake. The first boat cuts through the water and creates a wake. Any boats behind it have to deal with the turbulence. The first turbine gets maximum air flow but the others don't.
When choosing a location for the site, Zayas said Lubbock fit the bill perfectly.
"It's actually windy the entire year and the facility is very, very flat, which allows us to really understand the inflow of the atmospheric wind that is actually coming onto the turbine," he said.
He also credited Tech's tradition of wind energy research over the past 40 years as an important factor.
Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance said he was optimistic about the future of this plant. "The completion of the SWiFT facility marks a new and exciting chapter of wind research at Texas Tech University. Research generated from this venture will enhance the capability of wind turbines, help develop wind power systems of the future and further Texas Tech's position as a leader in the wind energy industry."
In 2011, Sandia Laboratories elected to move its wind energy test facility to Lubbock with funding from the Department of Energy. A year later Vestas and Group NIRE, a renewable energy company granted permission for the facility to conduct research.
The site includes two V27 research turbines deployed by the Department of Energy and Sandia, and a third V27 turbine belonging to Vestas, a leading wind turbine manufacturer.
Revenue generated from the Vestas and Sandia turbines will fund research and scholarships for graduate study at NWI.
The SWiFT facility could eventually expand to include nine or more wind turbines. This would allow researchers to further examine how individual turbines and entire wind farms can be more productive and collaborative.
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