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Boulder, Colorado — As wind turbine capacity continues to grow, so does the need to test the electrical and mechanical power-producing components of those turbines. Currently, only a few test facilities worldwide have the capability to test wind turbine drivetrains with capacity ratings up to 5 megawatts (MW). The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is one of two in the United States. The second facility, also funded in part by DOE, is operated by Clemson University in South Carolina. It has two dynamometers—a 7.5-MW and a 15-MW.
Opening this fall, the NWTC's new dynamometer test facility simulates operating field conditions to assess the reliability and performance of wind turbine prototypes and commercial machines, thereby reducing deployment time, failures, and maintenance or replacement costs. Funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, the 5-MW dynamometer will provide the ability to test wind turbine drivetrains and connect those drivetrains directly to the electricity grid or through a controllable grid interface (CGI). The CGI tests the low-voltage ride-through capability of a drivetrain as well as its response to faults and other abnormal grid conditions.
With the new dynamometer, turbine manufacturers and industry professionals can have their wind turbine drivetrains tested in a controlled environment saving time, money, and risk. Jim Green, project manager, states, "The new dynamometer more than doubles the capacity (rated power) of wind turbine drivetrains that can be tested at the NWTC, which is sufficient to test the largest drivetrains envisioned for land-based markets. It will have the capability to simulate wind loads in six degrees-of-freedom, providing the most complete simulation of wind turbine operating conditions available in North America."
The dynamometer's first test article, a GE Energy 2.75-MW wind turbine that weighs more than 96 tons, was delivered to the NWTC in August and will be used for the dynamometer's commissioning this fall.