NREL commissions wind turbine

The USA’s largest government-industry research partnership for wind-power generation has received a boost with the formal commissioning of a 2.3MW Siemens wind turbine.

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Siemens Energy have formally commissioned a 2.3MW wind turbine at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center (NWTC).

According to NREL, the project will be the biggest government-industry research partnership for wind power generation ever undertaken in the US. Under the initial phase of the $14m (£8.6m) research programme, Siemens will contribute $9m (£5.5m) and NREL $5m (£3.1m).

Under their Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), Siemens and NREL will test basic turbine characteristics and verify new performance enhancing features of the pilot turbine over the next three years.

The Siemens 2.3MW turbine is among the largest land-based turbines deployed in the United States and is the largest at the NWTC site. Its rotor measures 331ft in diameter and is mounted 262ft tower.

Planned work includes structural and performance testing; modal, acoustics and power quality testing, as well as aerodynamic testing and turbine performance enhancements.

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

NREL researchers are also interested in the foundations required to support larger wind turbines. 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.

Installation of the pilot turbine at NWTC follows Siemens’ decision to locate its own wind-power research and development centre in nearby Boulder, Colorado. That office is expected to expand to 40 engineers and other staff by 2013.