The $20 million facility enables the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to work closely with industry engineers to enhance the drive trains and other electrical systems in the country's largest land-based wind turbines.
"Although wind turbines are producing an increasing percentage of Americans' electricity,
there is still room to improve the reliability of the mechanical and electrical power systems, which, in turn, helps drive down the cost of wind energy," said Fort Felker, director, NWTC. NREL's 5 MW dynamometer is connected to a controllable grid interface, which can simulate the power grid and help system engineers better understand how wind turbines react to grid disturbances.
In a typical dynamometer test, a powerful motor replaces the rotor and blades of a wind turbine. The testing focuses on the mechanical and electrical power-producing systems of a wind turbine, including gearboxes, power converters, bearings, and control systems. NREL's new facility uses a hydraulic device that simulates the rotation and bending that a wind turbine rotor places on a drivetrain. According to NREL, only a handful of test facilities in the world have this dual capability.