University of Notre Dame buys wind turbines for wind power research

The University of Notre Dame hopes to lead the charge into wind energy research with the purchase of two wind turbines that officials say set the university apart from others.

The university spent $400,000 on the 68-foot-tall wind turbines that are being installed in White Field. The wind farm will allow the Institute for Flow Physics and Control to test wind energy in real life and not just through simulations, Thomas Corke, the institute’s director, told the South Bend Tribune.

Corke said most universities must study large-scale models such as those on big wind farms because they don’t have their own wind turbines. Those wind turbines have rotors that are 180 feet in diameter and can produce 1.5 megawatts of power. Notre Dame’s wind turbines have 30-foot diameters and can only produce 25 kilowatts of power each.

Corke said the smaller size isn’t a concern because the turbines are meant for research, not as a source of power for the university. "These will be large enough to study, but small enough to modify as new studies are done," he said.

The wind turbines are expected to be operating by late June. Corke said graduate students are already working on simulations and will study the wind characteristics and the power generated by the turbines for about six months.

Ted Williams, a doctoral student and graduate research assistant working with the wind turbines, said researchers are working to find a blade design that will produce the optimal power output. That could take years, he said. "It’s been a very good experience," Williams said. "We are doing a lot of studies and we have now been given the resources."