University Of Wyoming Team Aims To Make Wind Farms More Effective

Sep 30, 2020

A wind farm owned by PacifiCorp near Glenrock, WY.
Credit AP Photo/Matt Young

University of Wyoming researchers are exploring the wake that is produced by wind turbines.

Much like a boat, the propellers produce a wake behind them. UW professor of mechanical engineering Jonathan Naughton said that wake tends to have a lot of turbulence, which causes problems when the structures are close together.

"One of the big goals I would say is to be able to better place our turbines so that we can extract more energy and have less of these high turbulence flows hit turbines," he said. "The downside of high turbulence flows hitting turbines is they tend to produce varying loading on the turbines, which has a bad effect on their lifetime."

To accomplish this goal, Naughton and his team built a mini-turbine. They tested the airflow around the structure and its wake in a so-called 'wind-dome'.

"The primary goal of that was to make measurements of that turbine that are very difficult to make, say if you wanted to do it on a turbine in the field, because of its size and because the atmospheric conditions vary quite drastically," he said. "Getting the test conditions you want can often be quite complicated."

Naughton said they can compare their measurements to models of wind turbines to make the models more accurate. This information can then be used to arrange wind farms in the most efficient way possible.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu