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US Offering $45M For Huge Wind Energy Test Bed

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the blow-baby-blow dept.

Power 91

coondoggie writes "On a day when one of the largest wind farm plans bit the dust, the US Department of Energy is offering up a five-year, $45 million grant to design and build a large dynamometer facility for testing 5 to 15 MW rated wind turbines and equipment. The DOE says such a facility is needed as the US has fallen behind other countries in the race to build ever-larger wind turbines for energy production. According to the DOE, the average size of wind turbines installed in the United States in 2007 increased to roughly 1.65 MW. Additionally, turbines already developed range in the 2.5 MW to 3.5 MW capacity sizes; with plans being developed for even greater power ratings. The larger wind turbines have outpaced the availability of US-based testing facilities, the DOE stated."

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Go for it. (4, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28629837)

Build it, I say. That'll teach those birds to crap on my car!

Re:Go for it. (5, Funny)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 5 years ago | (#28629877)

Build it, I say. That'll teach those birds to crap on my car!

Your worried about bird crap? Oh man, your going to be in for a big surprise when a turbine hits the bird and it's guts are on your car. That's when the shit really starts to hit the fan.

Re:Go for it. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28630049)

Making this movie was never the end goal for Nils or me. Never. This movie is just a launching point for something much larger.

In addition to building a franchise off of this first film project, we have tons of ideas for Rudius media. Some are easy to envision (books, movies); others will take a lot more resources and be dependant upon certain benchmarks associated with domestic receipts and other factors that I will explain soon.

The business plan for Rudius is diverse to say the least and will surprise many people. Without giving away too many secrets I will list just a few of the like 20 ventures we will be exploring.

Rudius Air: We are already in talks to purchase or lease two high-end private jets that will cater to specifically to filmmakers with out of state productions. Key words here are--TAX INCENTIVES. More on this later.

Crossbow and Rifle range: We have met with a few commercial realtors in Los Angeles to help us scout a location for an indoor firing range that isn't limited to handguns. There is a huge potential market for this in Southern California. People are just to lazy to do the research.

IHTSBIH Bar/Restaurant(s): Despite the plethora of places to eat in Los Angeles, there are only a few places to go and actually drink (without being surrounded by cokehead actors in shiny shirts). The problem why so many bars fail in this town is because everyone over thinks the concept. Not us. Don't get me wrong--there are HUGE obstacles for this; a liquor license being one as they are near impossible unless you stick to serving just beer and wine. We've run a broad concept past a few investors and got amazingly POSITIVE feedback. Again, this would be two years out at least, but two years is nothing in the timeline we have fashioned.

Keep your eye on the target not the prize.

Re:Go for it. (1)

Starlon (1492461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630149)

That's when the shit really starts to hit the fan.

Pun intended? lol

Re:Go for it. (1)

relaxinparadise (943965) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630513)

It would be worth it for the other times in the future than the dead bird would have pooped my ride.

What to do with 650 windmills? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28630875)

This guy has 650 windmills scheduled for delivery and needs a place to send them. The current places I see are near Palm Springs, CA and Tehachapi, CA and those are stored at Mojave Airport where there is plenty of room and transportation, truck and rail.

He needs to deploy these NOW wherever there is infrastructure such as those mentioned and two others.

He should pay me a fee for my good advise. Pay CA Rocketman please.

Power transmission is a bigger emergency than wind power.

CA Rocketman

Re:What to do with 650 windmills? (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 5 years ago | (#28636475)

Power transmission is a bigger emergency than wind power.

And it would seem Texas [renewableenergyworld.com] and California [greentechmedia.com] would agree. Both have approved multi Billion dollar infrastructure upgrades. Which, even if a new wind farm started construction today likely would not be operational prior to the completion of the new lines several years from now.

Disclaimer: I work for the parent company [nexteraene...ources.com] of Lone Star Transmission.

Re:Go for it. (2, Insightful)

j0hnyquest (1571815) | more than 5 years ago | (#28629913)

"For its part, the DOE has ambitious plans saying it expects wind to provide up to 20% of the nation's total electricity needs by 2030." There is no way that will happen. But this will definitely help with getting rid of those pesky birds and bats.

Re:Go for it. (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630485)

I think there is a hidden suggestion that because of fossil-fuel depletion there will be a massive reduction in overall electricity usage by 2030 - so the 20% figure may actually turn out to be accurate.

Re:Go for it. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28631017)

Well, here in Spain we already produce 20% of our electricity needs with wind, and it wasn't very hard or ultra-expensive:

https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html

Re:Go for it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28633181)

I've never had any spanish, but guess that eolica is the wind part. google "translate eolica" supports that guess. My point: The pie fraction for eolica is most of the time way below 20%. Assuming you are not pulling figures from thin air (!), I am probably overlooking something. What is it?

Re:Go for it. (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28634073)

Typical Government Agency offering $45 million for something that can suck & blow at the same time when they already have it it's called congress!

Re:Go for it. (2, Funny)

Gravatron (716477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28634813)

Solution: Turbines disguised as ceiling fans over the congress chambers, to capture all the hot air.

This... (2, Funny)

incognito84 (903401) | more than 5 years ago | (#28629851)

This blows!

Re:This... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28630011)

Just like your mom does to nigger dicks!

US... Huge Wind... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28629893)

Hopefully they'll be able to test in the House of Congress because all that hot air is going to increase efficiency.

Re:US... Huge Wind... (1)

tuxgeek (872962) | more than 5 years ago | (#28631409)

Umm, That is not ordinary hot air you're referring to
It is more like flatulence

So if I understand this correctly... (2, Insightful)

Romancer (19668) | more than 5 years ago | (#28629925)

So if I understand this correctly...

We are looking for an artificial environment to test devices that specifically will be used in the natural unpredictable outdoor environment as their sole purpose?

Why not put them in a large windy area and map out their performance with actual gusty conditions and directional changes like they will be subject to in practice.

You'd get better data by skipping the artificial step.

If you really need the extremes to be on demand for destruction testing then put a big fan in front and a shroud around the device to be stress tested. Ramp it up and see how she performs.
Cost wise you could be selling all the energy that the time tests generate to pay for the spot testing and cleanup of the stress tests that fail.

Why do we need a giant test facility to create what's out there already and is the final place these things will be operating in anyway?

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (0, Troll)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630135)

Why do we need a giant test facility to create what's out there already and is the final place these things will be operating in anyway?

Obvious really. You can't fudge the data if you can't control the test.

Chalk this venture up to politics and corruption as usual.

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630191)

Why do we need a giant test facility to create what's out there already and is the final place these things will be operating in anyway?

a) To catch obvious design flaws early,
b) To test the device over the entire range of possible operation,
c) To provide a benchmark that remains static from one test to the next,
d) To control all external variables so as to create a consistent frame of reference,
e) To save a few bucks because it's really f----ing expensive to test every design as a full-scale prototype. ... Or to pull a page from our own industry, what's wrong with the following statement: "It compiles, ship it!"

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (0)

Romancer (19668) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630431)

a) To catch obvious design flaws early,

Design flaws that wouldn't be caught on the first dyno test on the ground with no blades attached? What would be missed there that then would cause a problem when you mount the blades to it and then actually power it with wind? Anything that could be tested without putting the blades on and testing it with wind? If they do the first test and it passes, they should put it in the real world to actually see what an uncrontrolled environment does to it. That's usually when things break. Not in the controlled artificial environment most people use for testing.

b) To test the device over the entire range of possible operation,

Like I said. The entire range includes the random natural environmental changes that happen outside the test facility most people use for these things. You can test the extremes by artifically calling them up but the constant varying environment is a better test bed for things that will land up in that environment anyway.

c) To provide a benchmark that remains static from one test to the next,

You mean to test multiple designs against eachother? That's not what this is for. It's for testing the drivetrains inside to see if they can handle the torque resistance of generating power. That's easily tested by a dynamo on the ground, no argument there, but the actual test of hard gusting winds from off angles that will actually happen can't be tested by a simulation, at least not without just as much risk to the dyno as the test subject.

d) To control all external variables so as to create a consistent frame of reference,

To see what exactly? That they can perform when all of the environmental variables are matched exactly? When is that going to happen in the real world? How often? By saying that you need an artificial test bed that is different than the real world to test these things, you're saying that the real world isn't the same. Kinda interesting that they will end up operating in the real world, not the test environment. I'd rather they got more time in the field under close watch than in the test bed with unrealistic environmental conditions.

e) To save a few bucks because it's really f----ing expensive to test every design as a full-scale prototype. ... Or to pull a page from our own industry, what's wrong with the following statement: "It compiles, ship it!"

You don't need to test every design as a full scale prototype, unless you plan to manufacture them sometime. Then it's really good to test them first.

So we have a problem. Do we hook them all up to a dyno and see what they can do and then call it good. Or do we test them with a basic artificial dyno run and then put them in a carriage with stock props to see what happens for a month of random wind loads and directions on the drivetrain and if there's a difference in performance. Can it handle the real world?

Side note:
This is, by the way, what I would like to see the EPA do with cars.
Drive them on the track to get the base mileage and then give them to employees with gps boxes bolted on and have them actually drive them. Give one to a rough driver, one to a calm commuter, and one to an average joe. They have employees driving to work every day in cars they have to pay for, give them a deal and get the data in return.

Idealistic I know, but it'd match the real world more than the averages they've been releasing for the hybrids vs the actual real world experiences we've had.

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28633579)

Disclosure 1: I read the article.

Disclosure 2: I work at a wind turbine blade testing facility.

First point: the article speaks of the drive train, so the blades are not attached. The blades are *HUGE*, so that approach would be insanely expensive compared to the usual approach.
So, the usual approach is to test the parts separately, and to test the connections of the parts. When the parts can handle the load, and the connections can handle the load, and the support can handle the load, then the load can be safely transferred from the parts to the support.

a) The smart approach is to apply loads equivalent to that of the uncontrolled environment, increased with a safety factor. You can do that in the controlled artificial environment. This way, you abuse the parts more than what nature will deal out.

b) The tests should include fatigue tests. Since it is economically unfeasible to do a 20 year experiment, the testing frequency and amplitude are increased such that the cumulative damage in the critical spots is equivalent. Then the test is executed at a level augmented with a safety factor. So, yes, the varying aspect is tested.

c) I am not in the business of testing the drive train; however, depending on the construction of the turbine, the hard gusting winds from off angles that you speak of, are considered. I expect most of that load is carried by the bearings that carry the turbine hub, and that the remaining part is taken by the drive train. These loads are known, and thus can be tested. Moreover, risking the dyno as a test subject is kind of the purpose of the test: If it breaks then there is a flaw that needs addressing.

d) I agree that the test conditions are not the real world conditions. I do not agree that testing can be done only under real world conditions and that results obtained under testing conditions cannot tell anything about real world behaviour. The essential part here is the mapping between the real world and the test conditions. For instance, one could observe from material tests that doubling the load reduces the number of load cycles to failure by a factor 8 (I am pulling figures from thin air here to support my reasoning, however, one may look up the literature to find the proper figures. They'll support my reasoning). So, by doubling the load, we can test 8 times as fast. However, it is known that the UV light from the sun degrades the resin over time. So, in reality, the blade may not be as strong at the end of its life as the test specimen at the end of the test. These kind of influences must be taken into account. And again it is done with *rimshot* a safety factor.

e) As far as I know, every design is tested. Most of them by simulation, and some (including all designs going in production) of them by physical test.

The usual cycle is to do the engineering design, do simulations, improve, rinse, repeat, until a satisfactory design comes up. Then build an expensive prototype, which most likely passes the test, as the failure modes are known from the simulations and designed to be outside the operating envelope. This adds the following purpose:

f) Test the prototype to show it complies with the requirements.

One of the great experiences of my job is to see a blade fail at the predicted spot at the predicted load in the predicted way. Another is to see it fail in another way, and being able to spot what cause was missed. It is akin to the satisfaction of discovering and eliminating an important bug.

And (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630641)

So a gigantic blade doesn't go flying in to someone's house.

When you are talking machines as big and as heavy as this, you want to test outside conditions in a safe environment to make sure it won't fail. You do not want to discover later that oh, maybe it WASN'T as strong as we thought.

Same reason why the bend wings on an airplane. No, they will never face stresses that high in the real world. However, we don't want to just fly it around and say "ok, that's probably good" only to find out later that no, it really isn't. You test an outside case, and you do it somewhere that nobody gets hurt.

Re:And (1)

Spectre (1685) | more than 5 years ago | (#28635801)

So a gigantic blade doesn't go flying in to someone's house.

When you are talking machines as big and as heavy as this, you want to test outside conditions in a safe environment[...]

You test an outside case, and you do it somewhere that nobody gets hurt.

This is why I'd recommend the western half of Kansas and Nebraska for this ... average wind speeds are 6.5m/s or higher across the entire region, and random bits of shrapnel have next to no chance of hitting a person or a structure. There are plenty of places where you can stand and see a mile or more in every direction by climbing on top of a rock or a car, and not see any sign of habitation except for a road (empty). http://www.awea.org/faq/usresource.html [awea.org]

Re:And (1)

drukawski (1083675) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641357)

The problem is you can't build towers out in the middle of nowhere. You need a place close to transmission lines,with easy to access for heavy equipment (not just the 300-400 ton cranes, but the trucks hauling in the tower sections and blades are all tens of thousands of pounds too), and a place you can still access regardless of the weather (snow, heavy rain, etc..). What this generally means is wind sites are built along highways or freeways that high voltage lines parallel. Unfortunately, that means towers are generally placed near the outskirts of cities and since tower failure is nothing new [wind-watch.org] and not limited to any one tower manufacturer [manufacturing.net] that means accidents are going to be fairly common.

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28632487)

Having just visited a wind farm today, I can tell you that the gearboxes are what fail most often. The wind facility I visited had 44 older wind turbines (starting from 1998) and those gearboxes cost around $150,000 to $200,000 plus a significant amount for the cranes and man hours ($1000/day for the large crane required + $10,000 setup and $10,000 tear down, and they can only operate in low wind conditions). Those gearboxes, however, are supposed to last, IIRC, 10 to 15 years, but typically last less than 5, simply because of the stresses caused by starting and stopping (according to the mechanic there).

The NWTC is putting in a test gearbox at the same site to collect data for (hopefully) a year, but I really don't know anything about that facility. I guess they don't have what the DOE is looking for here?

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (1)

Deth_Master (598324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649265)

Save the money for nuclear plants. http://mises.org/story/3536 [mises.org]

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (1)

Romancer (19668) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630219)

Two small issues as well:

The creation date for this bid is after the posting date:
http://www.grants.gov/search/search.do?mode=VIEW&oppId=48091 [grants.gov]

And really... In a bid description we need to say this?
"It is envisioned that the facility will include sufficient office space for permanent staff and visiting users as well as conference rooms, lunch room, restrooms, computer stations, etc."

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (2, Interesting)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630223)

You raise good points that I won't argue with, so I'll raise my own.

Most wind farms are in the middle of nowhere (for example, the one an hour outside the LA area on the I-10). Building a test location here requires a) the R&D staff relocate or b) the R&D staff drive potentially hours to work and then back. Neither of those is attractive to potential hires. If you were generous and decided to include their commute as paid time out of their 8 hour day, this could result in 4 or 6 hour work days. To offset the reduced productivity (in pure hours), the team needs to be doubled. Then there is more overhead (meetings, admin, recruiting, lower hiring standards, etc) due to the higher headcount. As painful as it might sound, $45M to build this in a population center might actually be cheaper.

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630499)

Banning isn't really the middle of nowhere. Try leaving Bakersfield towards I-15 and then south on CA-247. Then you'll see windfarms in the middle of nowhere.

Commuting out of the LA basin is ridiculous too, they could live in the Palm Springs area.

A real world environment for testing isn't good anyways, maybe revision 72A had better results because of the weather.

They need a controlled environment for design evaluations in a testing facility and then they can take it out to your proclaimed middle-of-nowhere to be put into use.

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28646563)

Screw California. One would suspect St. Louis, MO. would be a contender in the running. With players in aeronautics (Lockheed Martin) and Wind Energy (Amaren, Wind Capital Group, and others) one would think they'd be all over that. A joint venture might even cut costs by using existing facilities for getting a head start in this type of research. They should also have the people who know how to get the pork and they're less than an hour's drive from suitable fields for testing (some of which are already established wind farms.) For moving bulk items, access to existing rail infrastructure and the Mississippi waterway also helps. It might even be a better deal in terms of land costs and cost of living vs. wages for the employees. Most people think of the midwest as nothing but farm country and would be quick to dismiss it, but it's not without it's advantages.

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (2, Insightful)

markk (35828) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630261)

How much do you think it will cost to fully instrument an experimental Turbine in the field, then tear it down and build a different one? Now, how much for the equipment to stress the turbine at various loads, to manufacture wind speed conditions that mimic many different places around the country, and different loadings, look at various types of network interconnects... We might as well build a testbed location to do this. It might cost 40 or 50 million even eh?

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (1, Interesting)

Romancer (19668) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630507)

So your comparison is between a test bed that uses:

"equipment to stress the turbine at various loads, to manufacture wind speed conditions that mimic many different places around the country, and different loadings, look at various types of network interconnects... "

And

"fully instrument an experimental Turbine in the field"

What exactly would be the difference in creating a test structure that could mount the turbine, and an in place dyno, other than the fact that one has all the instrumentation built into it to see the real world off axis loading that natural wind creates that cannot be duplicated in a test dyno without risking the dyno itself?

How fast can the dyno shift axis and reverse direction? As fast as the wind? What happens if the wind does this, can the dyno certified drivetrain survive? Can the blades?

Why not test the system as it will be tested in real life. Why do we always have to half ass this stuff?
 

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (4, Insightful)

tibman (623933) | more than 5 years ago | (#28632499)

it WILL be tested in real life.. AFTER it's been tested in a smaller controlled environment. Half-assing stuff is building expensive systems and full-scale deploying them as a test phase. Guess what, if they work but have some problems.. that company won't be addressing those problems because they aren't worth the redeployment costs.

Also, a real-life environment won't go through the full range of capable scenarios during the limited test phase. You need to try out all kinds of odd-ball stuff that happens in real-life but just not very often (ie: hurricane).

Being able to install a prototype drive-train and go through the motions of testing without lengthy installation/setup times is important!

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (1)

ppanon (16583) | more than 5 years ago | (#28632523)

Maye the high wind peaks in a region only happen for two weeks out of the year. Do you really want your testing staff to sit on their thumbs for 50 weeks and then test 30 model variations in two weeks? That's pricey too.

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (4, Insightful)

willy_me (212994) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630273)

Why do we need a giant test facility to create what's out there already and is the final place these things will be operating in anyway?

A static environment is required to observe the effects of different designs. Tests in a real environment are also important - but they do not negate the need for a static test environment.

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630443)

where did it say that testing meant controlled conditions? wouldn't it have made more sense for them to have done precisely what you are suggesting?

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (1)

tuxgeek (872962) | more than 5 years ago | (#28631445)

I'm with you on this one
We already have some areas that do very well generating wind power
One that comes to mind is in southern California and the valley is wall to wall wind turbines.
Why not experiment there? Nobody will mind

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (1)

apez1267 (1311469) | more than 5 years ago | (#28633007)

mars , were else are we suposed to get the electricity to make water when ww3 ( the war for gas ) ends and the last surviving humans leave earth now that it's a nuclear wast land

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28634347)

There's a great video of a wind turbine exploding which you can probably find if you look. Once it went past a certain speed, the tensile strength of one of the blades was exceeded and it split. The turbine then became unbalanced and quickly pulled itself apart.

This turbine, if I remember correctly, had been in use for two year when it happened. It only broke because the winds were much higher than average for the area. If you're testing in a wind tunnel, you can keep turning up the wind speed until the turbine explodes and get an accurate measure of how much energy it produces at each wind speed and how much it can take so, when you deploy it, you can shut it down when the wind speed approaches the maximum. If you test it in the real world and 'skip the artificial step', you may need to wait several years to get wind speeds that high.

From your post, it seems like you've never designed anything for real-world deployment. You always want to control the test conditions so you can see exactly which variable is causing failures in your prototype.

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (1)

drukawski (1083675) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641621)

If your talking about that Vestas tower that spun itself apart in Denmark thats not what happened. There are two methods of stopping the hub on Vestas towers; you can rotate (pitch) the blades out of the wind, or you can prevent the hub from spinning using a brake on the main shaft connected to the gearbox. The pitch motor controllers failed and the hub was spinning too fast to use the brake.
They knew the tower had failed in an uncontrolled and dangerous manner so they backed off a couple hundred meters and let it free spin hopeing the wind would die down so they could lock the hub in place and replace the blown parts.
No amount of wind tunnel testing is going to tell you when a manufacturing defect shows up in a few of your towers that wasn't in the test bed design.
It doesn't matter how fast the winds are ALL large scale towers either gimbals out of the wind or pitch their blades out of the wind if its blowing too fast. Remember, these things have to survive hurricanes and tornadoes, a little wind is only bad if their broke to begin with.

Re:So if I understand this correctly... (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#28635863)

I did a LOT of work in wind energy while I was more an aerospace R&D guy.

1) Tell an aerospace engineer not to test something, and he will try not to bludgeon you with a cluebat. As an engineer, you are negligent if you do not consider every possible situation the turbine could experience. A wind turbine's natural environment can be reproduced in laboratory conditions for scale models. This reduces testing time and thus cost. It also allows for testing in conditions that the turbine will not experience, thus providing valuable data to determine safety and efficiency factors.

2) Full scale models are insanely expensive. Building a small scale model of turbine blades can cost thousands of dollars for an FDM model whose longest dimension is 15". Just using a rapid prototyping 3D printer to make one model whose longest dimension is 8" can cost several hundred dollars.

3) Wind tunnels are extremely helpful. The $300-$1000 per hour you spend in a wind tunnel testing your turbine will be much cheaper than the payout you make to some family because one of your turbines experienced some mode you didn't predict that caused it to destroy itself and send a blade into a minivan on a highway. Computer simulations can't do it all. And yes, I've witnessed a turbine hit a certain windspeed in a wind tunnel, and I heard the sounds change, and then saw the entire turbine shatter and blow down the tunnel.

When I tested turbines, I had a test stand that would tell you the turbine speed, forces and moments on the stand (axial, sideforce, lift, drag, pitching moment, yawing moment, rolling moment), power output, load, wind speed, and ambient temperature. The wind tunnel time was roughly $10,000 per week, but if you don't do this for a megawatt-class turbine, you risk destroying the turbine or killing someone.

When you are harnessing *megawatts* of power, for God's sake, you just don't leave things to chance.

Why? (3, Interesting)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 5 years ago | (#28629933)

IANAE (Engineer, yes) however I seem to recall the energy generation from wind turbines being a fairly simple function of the size. Although I understand there is an acreage issue is it truly necessary to develop bigger and bigger turbines? Can someone explain this? Is it simply that we should optimize the land useage?

Also, bring on the inevitable "ditch wind, go nuclear" stuff. I can has mod points now?

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28629959)

Maybe they want to test wind turbines to destruction, or model their behaviour in different weather conditions. For example: how does ice deposition on turbine blades affect efficiency? Do this introduce any dangerous operational modes?

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630623)

Maybe they want to test wind turbines to destruction, or model their behaviour in different weather conditions. For example: how does ice deposition on turbine blades affect efficiency? Do this introduce any dangerous operational modes?

A test chamber big enough to do all that sounds like the type of thing the military would be interested in. Why not build it at one of the Army Proving Grounds? The road/rail infrastructure already exists for handling extremely oversized loads and they operate wind tunnels.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630859)

Maybe. Years ago when I worked on the FA18 there was a team working on crack growth analysis on (I think) the Mirage or the F111. They had stripped an airframe down in a test chamber in the US, cooled it down until the metal became brittle, then stressed it with hydraulic rams until cracks started to grow out of control. The resulting model was used to predict catastrophic failure in operational aircraft.

I can imagine similar things being done on turbines, for similar reasons.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 5 years ago | (#28629969)

Also, bring on the inevitable "ditch wind, go nuclear" stuff. I can has mod points now?

IANAA (Adult, yes) Nuclear is much more efficient when compared to wind farms, but nuclear energy hasn't been developed enough for it to be used as a main energy source. There are many advances and safety precautions to be made before nuclear goes to the big leagues. Intermittently though. we need to drastically cut our addiction to oil and go after power like wind and solar.

Re:Why? (5, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630147)

IANAA (Adult, yes) Nuclear is much more efficient when compared to wind farms, but nuclear energy hasn't been developed enough for it to be used as a main energy source.

Someone should tell that to the French. Nuclear reactors provide more than 75% of France's power requirements. [world-nuclear.org] .

Re:Why? (3, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630269)

If you look closely, you will see that they also provide the U.S. more electrical generation than France has.

Re:Why? (1)

Al Dimond (792444) | more than 5 years ago | (#28631721)

What are you trying to say, that because France is smaller than the US that it's somehow easier for them to implement nukes? Sure, it takes fewer plants to power the country, but France, being smaller, has fewer resources, space, and less money. It might take longer to bring the US up to France's level of nuclear use, but there's no inherent reason it couldn't be done just because the US is large. Unless that would overwhelm the global uranium supply.

Re:Why? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#28632285)

There is the relative shortage of high quality Uranium which would kick in if you built a huge number of the things, but the real problem is the lack of R&D which is what you need before you design the things in the first place. The French put in a lot of work before building what is in effect a long series of gradually improving prototypes and a few promising technologies that turned out to be dead ends (eg. fast breeders) or solvable but too difficult to do so not justifyable on economic grounds (reprocessing). Meanwhile the USA is twenty years behind South Africa in that department and would be far better off with pebble bed than some incredibly expensive Westinghouse dinosaur from the 1970s painted green.
I must admit that one thing I find extremely funny about some nuclear advocates is that they hold France up as an example but refuse to learn the lessons that came from the work in France. It's not 1970 anymore but we still have people talking about the possible wonders of fast breeders despite it being tried, discarded and technologies like accelerated thorium emerging instead which could solve the smae problem in a less complex way.
The real problem with the nuclear debate is that it tends to occur outside of the realms of reality and in the strange environment of PR with many "facts" made up on the spot. You'll be given numbers of "the cost of nuclear power VS coal" as if every plant is identical, but you will never be given a specific example at a specific place that can be tracked back to anything that can actually be measured. It's a strange world where terrorists can assemble nuclear bombs by picking over coal ash heaps (Alex Gabbard's infamous ORNL internal newsletter article before he moved on to publishing collections of Southern humour).

Re:Why? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28634625)

I'm trying to say that there is enough nuclear generation in the U.S. to judge it on it's own merits, there isn't any reason to compare the U.S. to France. Throw in the huge coal reserves in the U.S. and relative lack of coal in France and the comparison just keeps breaking down.

Re:Why? (4, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630409)

And Brazil gets only 3% from nuclear, has only slightly less power requirements than France, and yet is largely independent of foreign oil, while France is not.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28635509)

Brazil has sugarcane to produce ethanol where it cannot make enough oil. France is small, has little (no?) oil to produce for itself and no economical source for ethanol. The only way this has to do with nuclear is France's lack of plentiful domestic fossil fuel makes nuclear more attractive. While nuclear is generally more expensive (less attractive) than fossil fuel power, oil isn't a direct part of the equation. We (US) would probably have more nuclear plants if it weren't for the plentiful coal- I don't think that picture will change because of any fluctuation in our oil imports.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28630459)

And we all know what the French are like!!

Hurr durr durr

Re:Why? (1, Funny)

sorak (246725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630823)

IANAA (Adult, yes) Nuclear is much more efficient when compared to wind farms, but nuclear energy hasn't been developed enough for it to be used as a main energy source.

Someone should tell that to the French. Nuclear reactors provide more than 75% of France's power requirements. [world-nuclear.org] .

Ah ha! So you admit it is less than 100%, then!

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28631097)

I'm sorry but that is BS, the tech from nucelar has been pretty much perfected for 15 years, its just after chernobel and 3mile island everyone would shit a brick if someone even wispered nucelar. So no one built any, in the us anyway, it's there are too many people in this country that say they want these things, just not in their back yard.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28633647)

Although I understand there is an acreage issue is it truly necessary to develop bigger and bigger turbines? Can someone explain this?

The reason for bigger and bigger turbines is economy of scale. The larger the rotor blades are, the more couple is transferred to the rotor axis, so more power is gained by using material to extend the blades than to use it for additional blades. Moreover, the wind is stronger at greater heights. Of course, this is a very short and incomplete answer, but it is the core. More information can be found on
http://www.windpower.org/en/tour/design/index.htm. I am not affiliated with the site; however I work in the wind turbine industry

Re:Why? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28633943)

Bigger turbines produce more power. No, not just like that. The sweep area of the blade is related to the amount of power. Since area=pi*r^2, then power=pi*r^2 (or at least the power from the wind available, when comparing a big turbine to a small one). You can get more power from one big turbine, than from three or four small ones, and also you only have one turbine to maintain, not three or four.

Re:Why? (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28634509)

Also, bring on the inevitable "ditch wind, go nuclear" stuff. I can has mod points now?

Well, it's been proven in test after test that Nuclear powered windmills will generate more spin and hot air than wind powered Nuclear plants.

Has anyone thought about this? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28635319)

All this talk about solar and wind eneergy being "free" and building these giant wind farms and turbines has had me wondering about something that I never see addressed. Has anyone considered the meteorological effects of removing all that energy from the atmosphere? I mean wind and solar energy serve a FUNCTION, they move our weather systems around, melt our snow, power our rivers, etc. You start taking a significant chunk of that energy out of the atmosphere, couldn't you end up with climate changes that could be even more devestating than the global warming you're trying to avoid?

No energy is truly "free," after all. But environmentalists keep talking about wind and solar as if there's NO downside whatsoever. It seems to me that there might be a pretty big one.

Re:Has anyone thought about this? (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 5 years ago | (#28636479)

It depends what fraction of the "total wind energy" we use. On the other hand, it sure would be sad/funny for us to finally get these things going and have to shut them down due drastic local weather changes.

There might be an upshot to that, too. What if we find an easy way to alter weather to suit local needs better? Sure it's a shock to the ecosystem, but perhaps it could help things by concentrating rainfall in areas where we need it.

I imagine the energy used is a small fraction but I'm no meteorologist.
It would probably be obvious fairly quickly if anything was changing, on the order of a few years, but who knows.

Bigger turbines are cheaper per watt (1)

olau (314197) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647075)

Energy is extracted from the area that the blades cover. Twice as long blades means four times the area (pi * r ^ 2), which in turn means four times the energy. Of course, it's much more complicated than that, you can't just make double the blade length for twice the cost (must be stronger, etc.) but still.

Here's some info:

http://www.windpower.org/en/tour/wtrb/size.htm [windpower.org]

Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28629941)

1. Attach windmill to treadmill

2. Attach CowboyNeal to treadmill

3. Profit!

I find this hard to believe... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28629961)

I used to work for an aircraft engine company (Pratt & Whitney). They had lots of test cells for engine testing & research. This was a big heavy block of reinforced concrete with lots of instruments attached, and you bolt the engine to it.

I really doubt a wind turbine generates more power. I'm sure you could build one on the edge of a cliff so you don't need to worry about the wind turbine blades hitting something.

Re:I find this hard to believe... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28630179)

I suspect the power output is only a part of it. More important (as pointed out above);

- at what wind speed does it break down?
- if you run it at X high speed for Y hours, and small cracks form, how many more hours can you run it before it breaks? This is important e.g. if there's been a storm - how quickly do you need to send out a maintenance crew, or switch off the turbines?
- how is it affected by ice? how is it affected by flying plastic bags, or birds?
- if you want to compare 25 different designs for each of the above, how can you make sure they all experience the same input, so the output is comparable?

Testing in the wild is sensible but doesn't provide the quality of data needed.

You know... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28629989)

Those 687 wind turbines in Pickens' garage are laying there doing nothing...

Ames Research Center.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28630053)

... has large wind tunnels that are little- or un-used these days that could be fitted with the necessary test and safety equipment and already have the infrastructure to supply airflow on demand.

This is really a no brainer.

Re:Ames Research Center.... (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#28633095)

from http://oea.larc.nasa.gov/PAIS/WindTunnel.html [nasa.gov] :

The largest wind tunnel in the world is at NASA's Ames Research Center. This subsonic tunnel, which can test planes with wing spans of up to 100 feet, is over 1,400 feet long and 180 feet high. It has two test sections: one 80 feet high and 120 feet wide, the other 40 feet high and 80 feet wide. Air is driven through these test sections by six 15-bladed fans. Each fan has a diameter equal to the height of a four-story build

windturbines currently being deployed have blades of over 60 meters (200 feet, so a diameter of 400 feet) how are you going to fit them into those tunnels ?

I don't know about test beds.... (-1, Redundant)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630353)

but I know this guy down in Texas with plenty of spare units to test...

Re:I don't know about test beds.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28630633)

I know a guy in Nevada with plenty of spare beds to test, comes with entertainment at a good price too.

Cheaper Solution (0, Offtopic)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630525)

such a facility is needed as the US has fallen behind other countries in the race to build ever-larger wind turbines for energy production.

Wouldn't it be cheaper in these days of cutting back to piggyback off of their research instead. NIH is the biggest waster of money ever. Study success everywhere you find it.

Insert Taco Bell joke here (2, Funny)

crunchly (266150) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630587)

Wait for it...

Re:Insert Taco Bell joke here (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#28631229)

<voice="over the top dramatic necromancer">Don't go in there, I had Taco BELL for lunch!</voice> -Dr. Orpheus

$45 million over 5 years? (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630887)

It's so government.

I once worked in an R&D facility for heavy hydraulic equipment. They had about fifty test cells of different sizes, the largest of which was used for hydraulic transmissions for medium-sized locomotives. Those test setups used a big motor and a water-cooled brake; the hot water went through a cooling tower, and then to sprinklers in what appeared to be a decorative lake out front but was really a heat sink. That gear was in the 5MW range, somewhat smaller than what's being described here, but not a lot smaller.

That setup was where it belonged, near the engineers who designed the things and the machinists who built the prototypes. When the big test cell was put in, it took a few months to build. Not five years.

Re:$45 million over 5 years? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#28632279)

Who said testing ends when you get a production-quality design?

Dynamometer != Wind tunnel (2, Informative)

drewm1980 (902779) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630919)

Most of the posters seem to be under the false impression that this will be some huge wind tunnel facility. One of the difficult problems in designing a wind turbine is that the shaft turns very slowly, but electrical generators operate much more efficiently at higher shaft velocities. With the sort of dynamometer they are talking about, you use a very large motor to spin the generator (and possibly the attached drivetrain) and measure how its efficiency throughout its speed range.

Re:Dynamometer != Wind tunnel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28633771)

One type of wind turbine design features gearboxes to obtain the higher shaft velocities. Other types use direct drive and omit the gearbox. They are more efficient, and more expensive, see
http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/iel5/10252/32672/01531394.pdf [ieee.org]

(I did read the abstract only)

informativE Fuckerfucker (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28630977)

I'm sick of it. of The Xfounders of

Just one question: Why? (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 5 years ago | (#28630997)

Why offer a $45m bounty on something like this, that they can build themselves, when nuclear power is strong (as the French, using it for 70% of their power) and viable, while wind power is less certain than solar. (i.e., how do we save and re-generate as the wind stops moving, etc?)

Nuclear power is now clean, has no nuclear-waste bugaboo anymore, and is about as tested as anything. Doesn't pollute, doesn't even spew CO2.

So why aren't liberals getting on the bandwagon?

I'd tell you, but you won't believe it, so nevermind.

Re:Just one question: Why? (1)

fl!ptop (902193) | more than 5 years ago | (#28636675)

So why aren't liberals getting on the bandwagon?

because nuclear is not politically correct to a liberal. it's all about the earth and sun, don't you know?

New Gravity Discovery Produces Limitless Energy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28631155)

New theory shows how everything starts with gravity. We live in a gravity-driven universe where gravity isnâ(TM)t just another force, it is actually the dominant, driving force that shapes all the others. Gravity is not a property of matter. It is not even a property of space. In fact, space, time and matter are all properties of gravity."

http://www.fhu.com/gravity-driven-universe.html [fhu.com]

RE: Obana Administration ... Dead! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28632579)

Obama Climate Change (Ponzi Scheme) ... Dead!

Obama Supreme Court Nomination .. Dead!

Obama Pre-Crime Perminate Detention without Cause .. Dead!

Obama Executive Order positioning himself as above all State and Federal laws ... Dead!

Obama Executive Order recinding the Constitution of the United States of America ... Dead!

Obama Bailout of Financial System with payback to Obama in cash Executive Order ... Dead!

Obama Amnisty for Telecoms who abided Criminal George Walker Bush Lawlessness (and cash paybacks) ... Dead!

What is the name of "Dead Duck"? Answer: Barak Hussein Obama .. aka "Barry"!

Welcome to Chicago Barry ... A-Hole!

why we need testing facilities?? (1)

apez1267 (1311469) | more than 5 years ago | (#28633065)

why do we need these testing facilities? the answer... turbines on mars , were else are we suposed to get the electricity to make water when ww3 ( the war for gas ) ends and the last surviving humans leave earth now that it's a nuclear wast land and go to live on terraformed mars

Downtown Detroit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28635227)

There are enough crackhouses.. uh.. I mean "abandoned buildings" in Detroit they could bulldoze and put all the turbines there!

I'd like to work on those (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 5 years ago | (#28635549)

I presently work in the Detroit area on software to control ~100kW motor/generators for cars. I'd like to move up to the megawatt range, where do I go? BTW IPM motors are the way to go IMO.

Is testing the limiting factor? (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#28635609)

Seriously, I don't think adequate test facilities are the constraint in wind turbine size. Have you seen one of these larger turbines being built? The limiting factor is not the DOE, it's the DOT. There is simply no way to get something that big to the construction site. There aren't roads, or trucks large enough to handle anything bigger. Once it's there, you have to find a crane big enough to lift it.

Re:Is testing the limiting factor? (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28637849)

A large jet might be able to take over where trucks and roads fail. Expensive, but it might be the only way. You still need trucks to get it to and from the airports, but you gain a lot of flexibility on what routes are available. I know there are helicopters that can lift a tank, so it may be possible to airlift the blades short distances. I don't know how big the blades get on 5,10MW units but picturing three 747s in place of turbine blades, I don't know anything short of a ship that could handle cargo too big to fly.

Re:Is testing the limiting factor? (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28637887)

Easy, just take a helicopter and switch out the rotors with the turbine blades.

Personal Turbines Arrive (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#28647981)

How about this Honeywell Windgate [mapawatt.com] "personal" turbine, under 6 feet across and under 100 pounds, generating power at as little as 2MPH (about 6W), up over 45MPH (over 2.4KW). It's $4500 at Ace Hardware, but the IRS will refund 30% of its price under the Obama Stimulus programme, $1350 for a net $3150 price (and your state might rebate another 20-50%+). In NYC (average wind speed 12.2MPH at LGA [noaa.gov] producing about 200W), $3150 takes about 7.5 years to break even. Which is about how long all these consumer-grade energy generation or efficiency products take to break even, except CFLs which pay off after about 8 months.

That means the Windgate is the watershed: it marks the price:generation efficiency point past which harnessing wind through your hardware store is affordable. Further improvements will be in reference to today's breakthroughs.

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