Offshore wind power project awarded $1.2 million from DOE

Penn State has been awarded $1.2 million from the Department of Energy for a project on offshore wind power.

The project’s goal is to develop a computational Cyber Wind Facility (CWF) that will provide wind energy researchers the capability to collect data that is impossible to gather from a field wind turbine facility, which has limited data collection capabilities.

“One of the beauties of the cyber facility is that it is computer software based, and therefore can be utilized on different computational platforms,” said James Brasseur, the project’s principal investigator and professor of mechanical engineering, bioengineering and mathematics.

Because of the high level of computational sophistication required, researchers are currently using the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment high performance computing machines Kraken-XT5 and Blacklight.

Researchers on the project will use high-performance computer systems to simulate how a real wind turbine would function, including the impact of waves on the blades and towers of offshore wind turbines. The research will improve turbine design, allaying damage and increasing reliability and efficiency.

But, Brasseur said, “CWF is not a class of ‘engineering design-level tools,’ but rather a facility that can generate dynamically accurate, highly-resolved space-time data for application to a wide variety of problems. One of these will surely include the enhancement of design-level computational tools; however, there will be many more applications.”

This research is needed because today’s wind turbines aren’t lasting as long as they are designed to. Turbines are cracking and gear boxes are failing; among other things, Brasseur and his co-investigators hope to use the CWF to find out why.

Offshore wind turbines are similar to those used on land, except that the offshore turbines are bigger and have several design modifications to cope with wind-wave interactions. Offshore wind facilities can generate more power than onshore facilities because offshore winds tend to flow at higher speeds, thus producing more clean energy.

The project is a collaborative effort among Penn State’s Brasseur and his co-investigators, Eric Paterson, chief scientist at the Applied Research Laboratory and professor of mechanical engineering, Sven Schmitz, assistant professor of aerospace engineering, and Robert Campbell, research associate in the Applied Research Laboratory.

Additional collaborations include Sue Haupt at the National Center for Atmospheric Research to incorporate weather prediction models into the CWF, and a team at GE Global Research who will work with Penn State to exercise the software for industry applications and offer important industry input.

The Department of Energy awarded a total of $43 million to 41 separate offshore wind power projects to speed technical innovations, lower costs, and shorten the timeline for deploying offshore wind energy systems.


Last Updated October 03, 2011