South Carolina and Colorado — Two of the world's largest state-of-the-art drivetrain test facilities will soon be open for business—the Clemson University Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility at the Restoration Institute in South Carolina and the 5-MW dynamometer at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado. Funded in part by DOE under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the new facilities will accelerate the development and deployment of next-generation wind energy technologies for both offshore and land-based applications.
Located on a former Navy base with easy access to both rail and deepwater transport, the Clemson facility in North Charleston is ideal for testing the larger multimegawatt wind turbines currently being developed by both U.S. and international manufacturers for offshore applications. This facility will be equipped with 7.5-MW and 15-MW dynamometers. These dynamometers will enable industry and testing agencies to verify the performance and reliability of drivetrain prototypes and commercial machines by simulating operating field conditions in a laboratory environment. Verifying a system's performance before it is commercially deployed reduces risk for both the manufacturer and systems operator.
In addition to testing the performance of the drivetrains, Clemson plans to leverage the facility's electrical infrastructure to build a 15-MW hardware-in-the-loop grid simulator. The grid simulator will mimic real-world circumstances, such as wide-area power disruptions, frequency fluctuations, voltage drops, cascading accidents, and cyber or physical attacks, to determine the effects of the wind turbine on the utility grid and the grid on the wind turbine. The Clemson facility will also expedite collaboration among faculty, students, and private partners to create cross-cutting teams capable of solving major challenges prior to market introduction.
The 7.5-MW dynamometer at the Clemson drivetrain facility will be operational by the end of 2013, and the 15-MW dynamometer will be operational in 2014. The grid simulator will begin commissioning this year and will be operational during the first quarter of 2014.
DOE's new test facility at the NWTC near Boulder offers industry the capability to perform accelerated tests on wind turbine drivetrains with capacity ratings of up to 5-MW. In addition, industry partners that use the facility gain access to on-site engineers with more than three decades of engineering experience. The new 5-MW dynamometer will be connected either directly to the grid or to a controllable grid interface (CGI), providing system engineers with a better understanding of how wind turbines react to grid disturbances. The CGI, in turn, can also be connected either to wind turbines in the field at the NWTC or to electronic and mechanical storage devices undergoing a test. It is designed to work with all types of generators and inverters used in wind turbines, photovoltaic systems, and energy storage systems. NREL's CGI tests wind turbines off-line from the grid, verifies compliance with standards, and provides grid operators with the performance information they need for a fraction of the time and cost it would take to test the turbine in the field.