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Advanced Wind Farm Simulations

What used to be known as ‘alternative energy’ is fast becoming a 100% goal. New technology and research capabilities are now paving the way to advanced movement into Wind Power, and here’s how they are doing it.

In California, wind generates about 2 percent of the electricity produced by renewable resources, which account for 11 percent of the state’s annual energy production. By 2020, the state government wants to increase production from these cleaner, “greener” energy sources to 33 percent of the total power supply. In doing so, the annual production from wind sources would increase from 2,300 megawatts to between 12,000 and 15,000 megawatts. To meet this aggressive goal, the power industry must overcome the challenges associated with integrating wind into the nation’s electrical infrastructure, known as the grid.

With energy consumption on the rise around the world, interest in renewable energy sources has taken off. Wind power is a major component of the US energy strategy – it’s known for being affordable, efficient and abundant, as well as being pollution-free. Over the last decade, wind turbine farms have become a common feature, dotting landscapes across the nation, and today such massive operations comprise 4 percent of the total electricity generated in the US.

The new High Performance Computing Data Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) hosts high-speed, high-volume data processing capabilities that support the breadth of NREL’s research. This research leads to the large-scale integration of renewables into the Smart Grid.

This computer-generated simulation shows the turbulent nature of wind turbine wakes. The simulation helped uncover potential differences in output between downstream ‘waked’ turbines and upstream turbines

While wind power has many positive attributes, it’s main downside is its sporadic nature. In fact, actual power production is correlated with a range of atmospheric variables, such as wind speed and turbulence, as well as spatial and temporal scales.

Getting the most energy from these mechanical giants is thus a complex endeavor, but research teams are working hard to reduce the uncertainty that affects wind power forecasts. One of the main sites dedicated to optimizing wind power in the US is Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The lab has about a dozen atmospheric scientists, mechanical and computational engineers, and statisticians using fieldwork, advanced simulation, and statistical analysis to boost wind power production.

Analysis and visualization of a transient CFD simulation of a CX-100 Wind Turbine configuration. EnSight used to perform analysis and visualization of simulation results including spanwise loading, sectional loading, torque distribution and overall power prediction.


Advanced simulations and optimizations enable companies to accurately predict complex real-world behavior. This includes strength and deformation in large structures and equipment, linear and non-linear analyses, impact of thermal loads, vibrations, fracture and failure, enabling manufacturers to perform sensitivity studies, identify optimum design parameters, and quickly meet engineering targets.

Sources: Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryContinuum Magazine , You Tube