Wind power is making headway around the world as a renewable, climate-friendly source of energy. Lately it has making inroads even into mountainous regions with irregular winds and air turbulence brought on by the rough terrain. Six partners from WindForS, a wind energy research cluster in southern Germany, are now investigating how wind turbines can best be operated at these locations. The collective is planning to set up a field-test research site with two systems and four meteorological measurement towers in the Swabian Alps. The scientists from Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria aim to improve the technology in many ways, for instance being quieter, lighter and more powerful rotors. The Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) is coordinating this ambitious project. Its partners are the University of Stuttgart, Eberhard-Karls University of Tübingen, Technical University of Munich, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Esslingen University of Applied Sciences.
According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the worldwide installed base is growing every year with new power plants that collectively produce some 63,000 megawatts, around a fifth of which is generated in mountainous regions. Installations on flat terrain are easier to operate than plants erected in rugged terrain where yield forecasts are more uncertain, wear and tear are greater, and maintenance costs are higher. The WindForS research cluster now aims to answer the question of how to optimize these systems' performance and extend their service life. In a team headed up by ZSW, these wind energy experts are now planning a field-test research site in the Swabian Alps, at Stöttener Berg near Geislingen an der Steige. WindForS carried out a project called KonTest to investigate the location and its prevailing conditions.
Now this project is to be followed up by another named "Wind Science and Engineering in Complex Terrain (WINSENT)", the purpose of which is to set up a test site to serve as a platform for research and industry. It is to be equipped with two wind turbines that each generates around 750 kilowatts nominal output with 75 meters hub height, 50 meters rotor diameter and a total height of 100 meters. One of the project's USPs is that scientists will have unrestricted access to all control technology and engineering data. This way, they will be able to precisely analyze these systems' behavior. During their construction, the wind power plants are to be equipped with measurement sensors from the foundation to the rotor blades. A 100-meter tower is to be installed in front of and behind each system to rapidly measure meteorological parameters such as wind speed and direction, temperature, air humidity and air pressure. State-of-the-art laser technology will also serve to measure the wind power plants' inflow and wake.
"A wind energy field-test research site of this size and in such complex terrain is one of a kind worldwide, and of great importance to researchers and the wind power industry. The results of our analyses will be scalable to large commercial plants and provide fresh momentum for the industry," says Andreas Rettenmeier.