Software Takes the Uncertainty Out of Wind Farm Performance

September 30, 2014 By Karen Henry

NREL-Wind-Sim-Energy-ManageWake losses at wind farms can reduce power production by 10 percent. A new open-source software platform built by the US Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) may be able to cut those losses in half. The Simulator for Wind Farm Applications (SOWFA) is designed to improve the performance of not just one wind turbine, but the entire wind farm.

SOWFA was created to model all the variables at a wind farm—the topography, the air, surface and air temperatures, and the effects of the turbines themselves. Using SOWFA to simulate and design the coordinated control of individual turbines, for example, a wind farmer can adjust the rotors of one turbine to redirect wakes away from downwind turbines to improve power capture. If, however, conditions at the turbine are such that adjusting the rotors would be unsafe, the turbine can override the command.

The software also has the capacity to incorporate the heat on the earth’s surface into its calculations.

SOWFA’s improved look at physics will help the wind-energy community better understand the uncertainty gap between the average energy production and the worst-case energy production, which, in turn, should lower the interest rates for financing a wind farm.

Researchers can use SOWFA to study how new control schemes can increase power production and reduce fatigue from wake effects, and developers can use SOWFA to move turbines like chessmen on a chess board to maximize output—all before construction begins.

The software platform is available for free to academics, investors, wind developers and manufacturers. Users can discuss problems and solutions with other SOWFA users through an online forum.

Funding for the SOWFA project was provided by the DOE.

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