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This is an excerpt from the First Quarter 2012 edition of the Wind Program R&D Newsletter.

Computer modeling and turbine simulations are important elements of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Wind Program contributions to the industry's development of next-generation wind turbines. For more than two decades, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been developing advanced computer-aided engineering tools to support Wind Program efforts. NREL's preprocessors help industry designers build wind turbine models and the lab's postprocessors analyze hundreds of gigabytes of wind turbine test and simulation data to help verify performance and enable certification.

Most wind turbines must seek type certification from various certifying bodies. For type certification, engineers usually perform a loads analysis that involves running hundreds or thousands of simulations modeling different conditions. Engineers usually have to generate extreme-event tables and fatigue-life predictions from the simulation output. To accomplish this, NREL engineers created a program called MCrunch, but MCrunch requires more computer memory than is found on an engineer's typical computer. To address this problem, NREL created MExtremes for the extreme-event tables and MLife for fatigue-life predictions. These specialized tools process files sequentially, so only one data file is stored in memory at a time. Consequently, they can process virtually unlimited quantities of data on a standard computer in less than half the time.

Both MExtremes and MLife are works in progress, and engineers at NREL are inviting users to download the tools, use them on projects, and provide them with comments that might be incorporated in future versions. Both tools are open-source and can be downloaded from NREL's Website. Feedback can be provided via NREL's Computer-Aided Engineering Software Tools Forum.