Testing the wind turbines of the future

Pamplona in Spain – a town famous for its annual bull run – is home to one of Europe’s foremost wind turbine and renewable energy testing facilities, CENER – the national renewable energy centre. Last week the European Wind Energy Association policy team visited the centre to see behind the scenes of testing wind turbines to the limit.

Nestled in the outskirts of Pamplona, CENER’s aim is to test newwind power  products and optimise wind turbine and other renewable energy manufacturing procedures. It is made up of huge testing halls. One of these is dedicated to testing turbine blades up to 80m long. Athanasia Arapogianni, EWEA’s research officer, saw a live testing:

“It’s very impressive – they put huge, moving weights on different parts of the blade to simulate the different loads of the wind, bending it in all different directions. It can take up to four months to properly test one blade,” she said.

“At the end of the testing process they actually break the blade, for example by bending the blade until it cracks. One engineer told me this is an impressive and very loud process!”

In another testing hall, engineers test the drive train – which comprises the main shaft, main frame, gearbox and generator. The equipment used to do this is installed on a large concrete slab separate from the floor of the rest of the building – if it were on the same floor the vibrations from the testing process could be felt in the whole building, Arapogianni said.

The European Wind Energy Association team also visited an experimental wind farm up in the high hills of Sierra de Alaiz testing large prototype turbines installed on a complex, rugged terrain combined with strong winds. The wind farm also has four 120 meters weather masts monitoring wind speed and direction, temperatures and humidity.

Zoë Casey, http://blog.ewea.org/