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World first US wind test facility to measure turbine wake effects

US Energy Department breaks ground on “SWIFT” facility to monitor turbine interactions

The US SWIFT facility will measure the wake effects of wind turbine interaction

A test facility is being built in the US to measure wind turbine wake effects. The scaled wind farm technology facility (SWIFT) in Texas will be the first public facility to use multiple wind turbines to measure how turbine wakes interact with one another in a wind farm.

The facility is a joint project across the US and EU involving the US Energy Department, Texan wind firm Group NIRE and Danish wind giant Vestas. It aims to boost efficiency and mitigate damage to turbines when in operation. Such research could lead to technology to make large scale wind farms more productive, collaborative and efficient.

The wake effect is when wind turbines extract energy from the wind and downstream there is a wake from the wind turbine which reduces wind speed. This can affect the speed of other wind turbines across a wind farm, reducing their power output and efficiency.

In measuring wake effects, SWIFT aims to cut costs in the design and development of wind farms.

The Energy Department said: “The facility will help wind turbine designers and manufacturers continue to drive down the cost of wind energy by reducing the aerodynamic losses of wind energy plants, enhancing energy capture, and mitigating turbine damage.”

The SWIFT site has space for up to 10 turbines, but will be initially equipped with three. The US Energy Department will provide two and Vestas Technology R&D will provide the third. The facility has begun construction and is expected to enter operation later this year.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) are supporting the project and have made a USD 2.6m investment. This is in addition to investments which EERE has made into other research facilities. This includes the Wind Technology Testing Centre in Massachusetts, the Clemson University Drivetrain Test Facility, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's National Wind Technology Centre.