U.S. DoE dedicates new wind energy facility

The Energy Department (DOE) and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) dedicated a new 5-megawatt (MW) Dynamometer Test Facility at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). The $20 million facility enables 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,” NWTC Director Fort Felker said.

NREL’s 5 MW dynamometer is also 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.

“With record growth over the last decade, as they look to the future, wind developers will be installing larger turbines, including off our nation’s shores, to deliver more clean, reliable electricity to U.S. consumers,” DOE Wind & Water Technologies Office Director Jose Zayas said. “Facilities like the National Wind Technology Center’s new dynamometer will be instrumental in evaluating new technologies, helping to ensure reliability and reduce both risk and cost for the wind turbines of tomorrow.”

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. Only a handful of test facilities in the world have this dual capability; drivetrain testing under a rotational load only is the current standard for the industry.

The new Dynamometer Test Facility was funded by a grant from the Energy Department and the American Recovery and Investment Act (ARRA).

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.