The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced $4.5 million for four projects to help increase deployment of innovative wind power technologies by optimizing the operation, boosting efficiency, and improving the environmental performance of wind energy systems.
The research and development (R&D) projects, located in Maine, North Carolina, Nebraska, and Texas, contribute to the Energy Department’s effort to advance innovative technologies that reduce carbon emissions and support the Obama administration’s goal to double renewable energy again by 2020. These projects will pursue R&D not significantly represented in our current portfolio as a way to support and explore innovative new approaches for integration into our future program plans.
• Biodiversity Research Institute of Gorham, Maine, will receive $1.1 million to develop a stereo-optic camera system to detect and document bird and bat flight behavior in the vicinity of wind turbines. This system will use near-infrared cameras and specialized software to detect animal movements throughout the day and night, and will work to automate the identification of different species of birds and bats. The project will help researchers better understand potential environmental impacts of wind turbines.
• Texas Tech University in Lubbock will receive $1.4 million to develop a first-of-its-kind, radar-based prototype to measure the flow of wind through wind farms, which will increase data availability and lead to improved modeling. While radar platforms have been used extensively in meteorological applications, this will be the first radar system specifically designed for wind energy research. This new design for a modular and portable system will require less power to operate and be able to measure larger areas than currently utilized conventional radar systems. The project complements the Energy Department’s ongoing Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) Initiative, which aims to improve wind plant performance by increasing understanding of how wind moves throughout wind farms.
• The University of North Carolina at Charlotte will receive $500,000 to design and build a 30-kilowatt multistage magnetic gearbox, which will be validated for reliability, efficiency, and its potential to operate more quietly than currently available generators. The project will demonstrate that a magnetically geared generator has the potential to improve the reliability and efficiency of wind turbines.
• The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will receive $1.5 million to develop an online health monitoring system that uses the electric current signals produced by a turbine’s generator in order to track the generator’s performance and help determine when it needs to be repaired. This technology could reduce operating costs by decreasing unscheduled downtime due to unplanned maintenance.