Efforts Directed at Making Wind Farms More Efficient

A key challenge for wide-scale deployment of wind power without subsidy is making wind farms more efficient. Their performance can be compromised significantly due to complex terrain, unique atmospheric flow phenomena, and the complex air flow interactions that occur in large wind farms.

Michael Sprague of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is leading several computational science projects in wind energy, including a US Department of Energy (DOE) Exascale Computing Project (ECP) effort called ExaWind. He connected with ECP Communications at the SC18 supercomputing conference in Dallas recently for an interview in which he described the contents of an ExaWind project success poster in DOE’s SC18 booth.

Sprague explained that the poster showed a simulation involving the NREL 5-megawatt reference or notional turbine. In this context, reference, or notional, means the turbine does not exist in the field but shares many of the qualities or features contained in a modern wind turbine, especially those located offshore.

The simulation, he continued, was one of the project’s first of a turbine of such large size—with a rotor 126 meters long and a hub 90 meters high—using a computational fluid dynamics code called Nalu-Wind on the Cori supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC).

Sprague said the simulation is important because it demonstrates that the physics models of the ExaWind team will perform well on large computers and paves the way for the team to improve its physics models and direct simulation capability toward the exascale platform when it’s ready. He added that, ultimately, the team plans to simulate tens of large turbines within a large wind farm.