- The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on Tuesday announced a partnership with wind solutions company WindESCo that aims to improve the performance of wind farms by optimizing how turbines communicate and work together.
- The idea, known as "collective consensus control," utilizes sensors and software to allow turbines to share data and make real-time adjustments in order to boost potential output.
- The partnership will be funded through the U.S. Department of Energy's Small Business Voucher Project and will give WindESCo access to the lab's wind farm control expertise, while allowing NREL to apply its open-source tools to develop control solutions. The groups say the work could have significant impacts on the economics of wind farms.
Wind energy researchers say more production can be squeezed out of existing turbines, the question is: how much?
According to NREL, coordinating turbine controls to "minimize wake effects" can boost overall plant output 4% to 5%.
"Ultimately, we're aiming for a paradigm shift that has wind farms operating centrally, rather than each individual turbine operating independently," NREL Senior Researcher Jennifer King said in the partnership announcement. "Wind farms put out a plethora of data; we’re just harnessing it so turbines can receive and adjust to real-time feedback."
NREL says the project with WindESCo gathered wind power plant data and used it to "simulate using sensors that enable data sharing among turbines, allowing them to theoretically adjust in real time to changing wind directions and other conditions."
The lab is researching new "control methodologies" for onshore and offshore wind turbines.
According to DOE's description of the collaboration, WindESCo's approach to new control methods uses rotor-based sensing and OEM-independent hardware to make wind farms operate more efficiently. This allows existing wind farms to enable controls to "maximize power output and minimize costs," DOE said.
"Wind farm control has the potential to improve power output and reduce fatigue loads and operating costs at existing wind farms, strengthening these facilities economically and boosting the wind energy industry as a whole," according to DOE.