NREL wind research facility broadens focus to include marine

Illustration/The Columbia Power Technologies wave energy generator being assembled in the NWTC 5-MW dynamometer high bay (Photo: Mark McDade – NREL)

The National Wind Technology Center – one of the research facilities of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) – has announced plans to expand its predominantly wind focus to include marine hydrokinetic and energy storage technologies into its research mix.

NREL’s National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) is poised to provide the integration, data collection, and test support services for a much broader and longer-term vision wherein renewables are a principal electricity provider for the nation, said the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in the related public request for information.

The Columbia Power Technologies wave energy generator being assembled in the NWTC 5-MW dynamometer high bay (Photo: Mark McDade, NREL)

Namely, EERE’s vision is to enable the transition of the facility from a wind research center to the broader one that would also research energy storage and grid integration.

To ‘ensure continued world class energy technology development at the NWTC’, EERE has solicited feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on energy efficiency and renewable energy R&D testing needs and the associated equipment, facilities and infrastructure needed from the ‘re-branded’ research center.

According to the documents – up for public input until August 27, 2018 – the US government is looking for comments on the specific facility and infrastructure investments which would spur new research and development of value for the industry.

The interest areas for the R&D include fuel cells and hydrogen technologies, advanced manufacturing, solar, grid integration and storage, marine hydrokinetic, hydropower, as well as geothermal technologies.

The NWTC’s 305-acre site comprises field test sites, test laboratories, industrial high-bay work areas, machine shops, electronics and instrumentation laboratories, and office areas.

Recently, capabilities of the NWTC have been used to conduct water power research and testing including the use of the dynamometers for advanced generator testing – in addition to wind energy research undertaken at the site.

More specifically, the research capabilities currently available at NWTC – among others – include the validation of wind and water turbine drivetrains and generators, including non-torque loading capabilities by using the facility’s three dynamometers – 5.8MW, 2.5MW and 225 kW variants.

Also, the center boasts structural research facilities used to provide static and fatigue testing of large structural components – including blades – up to 50 meters in length.