By Kari Williamson

The public-private partnership will collaborate on three key areas:

  • Developing new wind turbine components and rotors for the US market;
  • Researching and testing the performance of new control strategies; and
  • Devising models that will help advance the development of offshore wind in US coastal waters.

Gamesa has already installed and commissioned a G97 Class IIIA 2.0 MW test wind turbine at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center near Boulder, Colorado.

The wind turbine will serve as the test platform with NREL, and is designed specifically for low-wind sites.

Chief among the goals of the research-and-development project is the design of new products specifically for the US market, with a sharp focus on interior and exterior components as well as the rotors themselves.

Researchers will examine how bigger rotors, as well as blade aerodynamics and some other features, can be altered to maximise annual energy production. Wind turbine tests will measure and validate the outcome of the research, looking at power performance, power quality and acoustics to minimise noise levels.

Gamesa and NREL also will work to design and test new lightning protection and other wind turbine conditioning systems, examining their performances in a range of temperatures at high altitude to ensure that they will function in any US environment.

New converter technologies will be used to test ways to increase energy output while enhancing component reliability. Extensive tests also will be conducted on other wind turbine key components, examining motion, temperatures, stresses and vibration levels, where the findings could lead to improvements that enhance the reliability of future US installations.

Gamesa and NREL also will work to develop new control strategies that improve energy capture while decreasing loads. Testing will include measurement of aerodynamic loads, the response of blade profiles and pitch actuation. Output will be measured throughout to determine how changes affect power output and its fluctuations, and what the effects are on structural loads and the wind turbine drive train response.

Furthermore, NREL and Gamesa will conduct a round-robin exercise using existing wind turbine modelling software to develop methods to enable companies to predict the behaviour of offshore wind turbines, as well as the potential sensitivity of equipment to the offshore environment.

NREL and Gamesa will examine factors such as wind speed distribution, turbulence intensity and wind shear, waves, tides, currents, temperature, lightning and ice formation, and how these factors correlate with performance and the potential cost for the design, operation and maintenance of offshore wind systems.

Full project testing on the entire slate of programs is set to begin early 2012. The core provisions of the public-private partnership run through 2013, with options for two additional years of collaboration.