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Large Wind Farms Need Improved Computer Modeling, Study Shows


wind-turbinesAs technology progresses, and wind power is becoming less expensive, the demand for larger wind farms increases. Alongside with growth comes a new challenge: the profit that needs to be obtained is in direct correlation with the accuracy with which the total power output is predicted. The total performance of the wind farm decreases when the number of the turbines rises, due to the turbulences created by the propellers.

Those turbulences are difficult to predict with common calculations, especially when the number of turbine units is high. The lack of accuracy in predicting the exact power output of a wind farm can cause severe profitability issues.

Studies have shown that unsuccessful computer models that aid the calculation of power efficiency can overestimate the results with up to 10%, which can lead to profit loss or even bankruptcy.

The stake being that high it is imperative to develop new models that can predict the power output of a wind farm with greater accuracy.

The work at a new giant wind farm with over 1000 turbines, the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre project at the Overland Trail ranch in Wyoming, is about begin. Engineers took careful measurements of various parameters such as wind speed and direction and used the gathered data to simulate, through the latest computer modeling software, how the turbines interact with each other when the wind passes through the propellers. The results predicted that the wind farm is able to generate 8.76 billion kilowatt hours a year, or enough power for 770,000 homes.

Unfortunately, computer models available today cannot predict the movement of the air at higher altitudes. Newer models have shown that large wind farms can disturb the air flow at a greater height than the height at which the turbines are installed. This shouldn’t be a problem at smaller farms with only one row of turbines, but causes loss in performance at larger farms with turbines positioned in more rows.

But there is also good news. Studies have shown that turbulences pull down the air from above the wind farm, air which can be used to propel turbines situated in the last rows. Improved computer models can help design the farm’s layout in order to maximize the wind intake and with it the power output.

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