DOE Awards $4.5 Million To Wind Power R&D Projects

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $4.5 million for four research and development (R&D) projects to help optimize the operation, boost efficiency and improve the environmental performance of wind energy systems.

The DOE says the projects, located in Maine, North Carolina, Nebraska and Texas, will contribute to the department's effort to advance innovative technologies that reduce carbon emissions, as well as support the Obama administration's goal to double renewable energy by 2020. The DOE adds that the projects will pursue R&D not significantly represented in its current portfolio. The projects include the following:

– Biodiversity Research Institute of Gorham, Maine, will receive $1.1 million to develop a stereo-optic camera system to detect and document bird and bat flight behavior in the vicinity of wind turbines. This system will use near-infrared cameras and specialized software to detect animal movements throughout the day and night and will work to automate the identification of different species of birds and bats. The DOE says the project will help researchers better understand potential environmental impacts of wind turbines.

– Texas Tech University in Lubbock will receive $1.4 million to develop a radar-based prototype to measure the flow of wind through wind farms, which the DOE says will increase data availability and lead to improved modeling. While radar platforms have been used extensively in meteorological applications, the department says this will be the first radar system specifically designed for wind energy research. This new design for a modular and portable system will require less power to operate and be able to measure larger areas than currently utilized conventional radar systems, the DOE adds. The project complements the department's ongoing Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) Initiative, which aims to improve wind plant performance by increasing understanding of how wind moves throughout wind farms.

– The University of North Carolina at Charlotte will receive $500,000 to design and build a 30 kW multistage magnetic gearbox, which will be validated for reliability, efficiency and its potential to operate more quietly than currently available generators. The DOE says the project will demonstrate that a magnetically geared generator has the potential to improve the reliability and efficiency of wind turbines.

– The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will receive $1.5 million to develop an online health monitoring system that uses the electric current signals produced by a turbine's generator in order to track the generator's performance and help determine when it needs to be repaired. The DOE says this technology could reduce operating costs by decreasing unscheduled downtime due to unplanned maintenance.

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